Lithuania blasted the US U-19 team by 33 points exactly one week earlier.
Sure, it was only an exhibition game.
This time, in a game that counted, Jeremy Lamb was dominant from a scoring standpoint, Joe Jackson was running the show – and Doug McDermott was his usual solid self.
The United States led by nine after three quarters and was up eight with less than a minute left in regulation.
But the Americans couldn’t close it out – and moments later, were down a half-dozen in overtime. However, Lamb, who finished with 35 points, hit a huge turnaround with 1.8 seconds left that gave the U.S. a 107-105 victory.
“We showed a lot of resiliency,” US coach Paul Hewitt told CBSSports.com from Latvia. “Our guys didn’t freelance, they executed and we got the ball inside.”
Hewitt was pleased, in particular, with the mental toughness displayed by Florida big man Patric Young – who missed a pair of free throws that could have won the game in regulation.
“I really think this will help him in his career,” Hewitt said. “He came back and made all of his free throws in overtime and had a couple of big dunks.”
Hewitt’s team will play Croatia tomorrow, but regardless of the outcome, they will advance to the medal round as the top overall seed.
The quarterfinals begin Friday and the gold medal game is set for Sunday, July 10.
No US team has ever won the U-19 championships on European soil.
“Jeremy Lamb was unbelievable today,” Hewitt said. “He made a conscious effort to use screens. I think Jeremy’s one of those guys where the biggest the moment, the more he prepares. He was focused and all business today.”
– Hewitt is now sold on Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, who finished with 30 points and 15 boards in the loss. Valanciunas was chosen fifth overall by the Toronto Raptors. “He’s the real deal. I love his competitiveness. After the game, he was so upset he was crying and punching walls. He went Rambo on us in the second half.”
– Hewitt was even more complimentary of Croatian 17-year-old forward Dario Saric, who he compared to a young Dirk Nowitzki. “He’s the closest thing I’ve seen to a young Dirk. Ever,” Hewitt said. “He’s 6-foot-10 and is unbelievable. I’ve never seen a big guy make some of the passes he does.”
– Lithuania was without its starting point guard, Vytenis Cizauskas, who sat out with an ankle injury.