Sunday night in Cordoba, Argentina marked the third time that the United States and Argentina met in the final round of the FIBA Americup, and the third time that Team USA, led by former NBA coach Jeff Van Gundy, defeated Argentina to win gold in the 2017 FIBA Americup. Center Jameel Warney (Texas Legends) finished with 21 points and 7 rebounds to earn tournament MVP honors.
Argentina dominated the game’s first half, shooting 47.2 percent from the field, and out-rebounding the USA 26-16. At halftime, they found themselves sporting a 42-27 lead, within arm’s length of the championship. All they had to do was hold on to the lead (spoiler: they didn’t).
Early in the third quarter, Argentina continued to be the better team, playing to a 48-28 lead. From that point on, it was all red, white, and blue. During the final 6:01 of the third quarter, the USA went on a 17-4, cutting Argentina’s lead to 6 points for the start of the fourth quarter.
With 7:04 left in the game, a Jameel Warney pick allowed Reggie Hearn (Reno Bighorns) to find some space and bury a 3-pointer, tying the game at 61-61. 65 seconds later, Xavier Munford (Greensboro Swarm) drove to the rim from the top of the arc, delivering a left-handed layup to give the USA a 63-61 lead that lasted them the rest of the game.
The USA never managed to completely pull away. In fact, Argentina had a chance to tie the score in the game’s final moments, but they failed to make the big shot. Nicolas Brussino (Atlanta Hawks) took a pass from Gabriel Deck (San Lorenzo, ARG) and put it in the basket from several feet beyond the 3-point line to bring Argentina within 2 with 21.5 seconds left to play. 1 Team USA free-throw later, Argentina had the ball, down 79-76, with 17.1 seconds left.
After quickly dribbling down the court, Nicolas Laprovittola (Zenit, RUS) pulled a quick step-back on Darrun Hilliard (Detroit Pistons), and pump faked. As Hilliard jumped up for the block, Laprovittola jumped into the already airborne defender and put up the shot, in a failed attempt to draw the foul. No whistles were blown, the ball bounced harmlessly off the rim, and was scooped up by Warney, who was then fouled, hit both of his free throws, making the score 81-76 in favor of the USA. This ended up being the final score, giving Team USA its seventh FIBA AmeriCup title.
After the game, the USA’s head coach Jeff Van Gundy said, “I’m very thankful to the people of Argentina for hosting such a great event. On the court, Argentina is a great team. They were beating us up pretty good. We were down 20 in the second half. But, because of great play, particularly by Jameel (Warney) … and a bunch of other guys, our defense kicked in and we were able to come up with a hard-fought win.”
Warney also took a moment to share his thoughts. “Today’s game was really great. The crowd was into it for all 40 minutes. That’s a great Argentina team. We had a slow start, but we picked it up in the second half with the coaching staff believing in us for the whole 40 minutes, telling us to never give up. They gave us confidence to push back and not get pushed around and not give up. I’m proud of our performance, and I’m happy we won today’s game.”
The victory guaranteed the United States a spot in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Before 2015, the FIBA Americup was part of the Summer Olympic games qualifications process. Beginning in 2017, however, the tournament has no implications for olympic qualification.