USA Men's Pan American Team Beats Argentina

USA Men Score Thrilling One Point Win Over Argentina in Pan American Games Opener

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (August 2, 2003) -- The USA Basketball men opened the 2003 Pan American Games tournament in dramatic fashion, scoring a thrilling come-from-behind 80-79 victory over favorite Argentina in the J.P. Duarte Center in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, Saturday evening. Chuck Hayes (Kentucky/Modesto, Calif.) paced the American scoring attack with 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting.

"That was a huge victory for us because it gives us confidence that we can play in the international arena,"said USA head coach Tom Izzo (Michigan State University). "We've only practiced for 10 days, and most of these kids have never played together before. That's not an excuse, but it is difficult to come together and develop a team chemistry in that short amount of time."

After building as much as a six point lead in the first quarter, the USA went exactly six minutes without a field goal in the second period, scoring only three free throws between a 3-pointer by Andre Barrett (Seton Hall/Bronx, N.Y.) at 8:07 and a hard earned basket underneath by Ike Diogu (Arizona State/Garland, Texas) at 2:07. Meanwhile, Argentina reeled off 12 points, logging 8-of-12 free throws during the stretch on the way to a 44-40 halftime advantage.

The third quarter saw the USA fight back for its first lead since Barrett's second-quarter trey when Diogu scored six points during an 11-5 USA run that put the Americans up 59-57 at the end of the third period.

The USA held a 61-60 lead after a Hayes tip-in early in the fourth when Argentina broke back on top with a rare four-point play. Bruno Lavaque hit a 3-pointer from the left wing as was fouled and after he converted the free throw Argentina had a 64-61 lead. Lavaque's four-pint play started an 11-2 run by Argentina and with 5:37 left the Argentines has moved out ahead 71-63. Hayes started the U.S. bakc on the comeback trail with a pair of baskets, then Rickey Paulding (Missouri/Detroit, Mich.) hit a 3-pointer, and after Hayes nailed a pair of free throws, the USA was back on top 74-73 lead with 2:50 left.

"I really wanted to get us going in the fourth quarter," said Hayes. "I think Rickey (Paulding) brought us a bunch of energy, and I tried to add to that."

Paolo Quintersos made the first of two free throws at 2:17 to tie it at 74, then Blake Stepp (Gonzaga/ Eugene, Ore.) drilled a 25-foot 3-pointer from the right side of the key to give the USA a lead it would not relinquish.

Roman Gonzalez, Argentina's massive 6-10 center, scored underneath with eight seconds left, then Hayes gave the USA the slim insurance it would need for the win by making the second of two free throws with 0:05 on the clock. Diego Guiata hit a 3-pointer from the left wing as time expired for the final margin.

While Hayes led the USA with 17 points, Emeka Okafor (Connecticut/Houston, Texas) added 13. Diogu finished with 11 points and added a USA best eight rebounds. Gonzalez led all scorers with 22 points.

Both teams shots reasonably well, the U.S. sank 49.2 percent (31-62 FGs) of its shots overall including 6-of-13 from behind the 3-point line, while Argentina shot a warmer 52.9 percent (27-51 FGs), and was 8-for-19 from 3-point. Both team's shot poorly from the foul line, the U.S. converted on just 12-of-24 free throws, while Argentina made 17-of-32 tries. The USA held a slim 32-30 advantage on the glass, and the Americans turned the ball over just 11 times, seven less than Argentina's 18.

USA Team Notes

The win gave the USA a 9-3 series record over Argentina in the Pan American Games and was the 80th USA victory in the tournament. The Americans are 80-8 all-time in Pan American Games action.

The interior trio of Chuck Hayes, Emeka Okafor and Ike Diogu combined for 17-28 shooting against Argentina, an impressive 60.7 percent from the floor.

After shooting 0-2 and being held scoreless in the first three periods, Rickey Paulding delivered the goods at the right time. With the USA trailing 73-67, Paulding went to work on the right side of the floor, first canning a 10-footer at 406 to close the gap to four points, then on the next possession confidently drilling a 3-pointer from the right wing to narrow the Argentine advantage to one, 73-72. The sudden shift in fortune for the Missouri Tiger sparked confidence in the USA team and rattled the Argentines, who called timeout. Then Argentina's Pablo Prigioni committed back-to-back fouls, the second of which sent Chuck Hayes to the line for the two free throws that would put the USA up for good.

Chuck Hayes had missed his first two free throws of the evening, but when it came to crunch time he had ice in his veins, drilling two free throws with 250 left to give the USA a lead it would never let go of, then notching one of two with five seconds left for the insurance the USA would need to hold off a late Argentine 3-pointer.

The USA's next game is Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT against 1-0 Puerto Rico, which defeated Uruguay (0-1) 89-72 Saturday afternoon. In the day’s other action, Brazil (1-0) upended Canada (0-1) 92-78, and the host Dominican Republic (1-0) in the night cap toppled Mexico (0-1) 72-67.