The final game of the long qualifying period for the 2019 FIBA World Cup was a thriller against Argentina, and a Reggie Hearn jumper with 0:01 left gave the United States an 84-83 victory.
The win left the U.S. atop Group E with a 10-2 record, a game – and a point – better than the Argentines, as both have qualified for the World Cup beginning 31 August.
The Jeff van Gundy-coached U.S. squad started well, with a 22-14 lead after the first quarter and a 42-35 halftime lead. But the third quarter was a problem.
Argentina came out hot and closed the gap quickly, taking the lead at 50-49 with 5:38 to play in the quarter. The U.S. went scoreless for 3:01 and Argentina’s 8-0 run made the score 54-49 with 3:54 to play in the third, and the visitors carried a 65-59 lead into the fourth quarter.
The final quarter was touch-and-go throughout. A three-pointer by Argentine guard Nicolas Brussino extended the lead to 68-59, but the U.S. went on a 13-4 win to knot the game at 72 with 4:37 left.
Argentina rebuilt the lead to 81-75 with 1:52 left and 83-77 with 1:19 to go. But guard Michael Frazier made two free throws, the Argentines suffered a shot-clock violation and then guard Travis Trice made a three-pointer to draw the U.S. to 83-82 with 39 seconds to play.
After a time-out, Argentina’s Lucio Redivo missed a jumper with 18 seconds left and the ball went out of bounds. U.S. point guard Josh Adams missed a jumper with four seconds left, but the ball went out of bounds again, off the Argentines.
Argentina called time with one second to play. Trice inbounded the ball to Hearn, already under pressure along the right baseline, but he fell back and swished a 20-footer for the victory.
Frazier led the U.S. with 23 points, guard Charles Cooke had 10 and guard Xavier Munford had nine. Hearn won the game, but had a total of just four points. Redivo led Argentina with 18 from the guard spot, followed by forward Facundo Pinero with 16.
At the end of it all, the U.S. finished atop Group E with a 10-2 record, to 9-3 for Argentina. Puerto Rico also qualified out of the group, finishing third at 8-4.
Said Van Gundy afterwards, “Well, the game was a high-level, intense game. I have so much respect for Argentina. Their program, their depth of quality players and they just play great basketball. It was very fitting that Reggie, who has participated in the most qualifying games for us, was the one to hit the shot. I was very happy for him.
“What I respect about our guys most is that both teams were qualified, both teams could have just gone through the motions and both teams fought with every ounce that they had. I just hope they take that type of passion and intensity back to where they are in the G League.”
The entire U.S. team was made up of G League players and free agents and Van Gundy had to create a new team for each of the six two-game series that made up the qualifying round. NBA players were not allowed to play for any team in the qualifiers, but will be available for the World Cup, where the American squad will be coached by Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs.