The Dagger: College Basketball Blog

Lithuania ousts U.S. from medal contention in quarterfinals

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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John Jenkins USA

Before leaving for China almost two weeks ago to play in the World University Games, UC Santa Barbara guard Orlando Johnson ended a phone interview by telling me, "Hopefully next time we talk, you'll be writing about me as a gold medalist."

Unfortunately for Johnson and his teammates, that dream is no longer possible.

The U.S. lost 76-74 to Lithuania in the quarterfinals on Saturday, a monumental upset considering the Americans rolled through pool play with a 5-0 record and an average margin of victory of 40.8 points per game. Even if the U.S. wins its final two games of the tournament, it will only finish in fifth place.

"Lithuania was a little bit quicker to the basketball," U.S. coach Matt Painter said. "They outrebounded us by about six. If you can pinpoint one area, probably the loose balls and a couple of those long rebounds probably ended up being the key to the game."

The U.S. loss was reminiscent of another surprising quarterfinal setback suffered by Team USA against Russia at the U-19 World Championships in Latvia earlier this summer.

Whereas the U-19 team blamed an 0-for-9 3-point shooting night for that narrow loss, the World University Games wouldn't use 5-for-30 shooting from behind the arc as an excuse for falling to Lithuania. Instead the U.S. team identified being out-hustled and out-worked as the primary culprit for the setback.

"Lithuania fought through everything, every loose ball," Vanderbilt guard John Jenkins said. "Every play they gave it their all. You could tell they really wanted it." {YSP:MORE}

Added Alabama's JaMychal Green: "They played harder than us. I've got to give them credit."

The U.S. still had opportunities to win the game after surging back from an eight-point deficit to tie the score at 74 with under two minutes to play, but Lithuania held Team USA scoreless the rest of the game.  Jenkins led the U.S. with 17 points, while Pittsburgh's Ashton Gibbs had 16 and Green chipped in 12 of the bench on 5-for-7 shooting.

Since a medal is no longer possible for the U.S., the team's next game against Romania on Sunday will be a test of its pride.

"I know in our minds we had one goal and we can't accomplish that now, but, now we need to regroup and finish strong in China," Johnson said. "I think we're going to do that. We're going to bounce back and still represent our country."

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