Jeff Van Gundy did his job. USA Basketball is headed to the World Cup.
Travis Trice scored 17 points in the clinching win for the U.S., which used rosters filled primarily by G League players in qualifying. John Jenkins added 13 points for the Americans (8-2), who have two qualifying games remaining at North Carolina in February.
The U.S. needed a late 12-0 run to finally seize control, and that was enough to clinch the World Cup berth.
Uruguay led 61-54 in the fourth, and was still up 65-60 when the game changed. Jenkins’ 3-pointer with just under 2 minutes left put the Americans up by four, and Chasson Randle connected on another 3 on the next U.S. possession to cap the burst and give the U.S. a 72-65 edge.
Scotty Hopson scored 11 points for the U.S., which has used 46 players in the 10 qualifying games played so far — all of them coached by Van Gundy, who was asked by USA Basketball to take G League players and get the country into the World Cup. Bruno Fitipaldo led Uruguay with 17 points.
For the qualifiers, the U.S. used its junior varsity.
Star power on the way
At the World Cup, the U.S. is going send the best of the best. Or at least, some of the best of the best.
LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are all among the 35 players in USA Basketball’s pool for the World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, though it’ll likely be months before the Americans know exactly what group they’ll be taking to China to play for coach Gregg Popovich.
“Jeff has done an amazing job under really difficult circumstances,” said Golden State coach Steve Kerr, who will assist Popovich next summer. “To have to qualify during the NBA season is a strange format but Jeff is the right guy for the job and he’s proven that. … It’s remarkable, to go ahead and do that without our top-flight players.”
The World Cup starts Aug. 31. The draw for the 32-team event will be held March 16.
The 32-team field for next year’s World Cup is filling, with eight spots getting grabbed in this window of games to push the total number of qualifying nations so far to 15. Argentina can get in later Sunday as well.
The U.S., Australia, France, Angola, New Zealand, Korea, Spain and Turkey qualified in this window of games around the world that started Thursday. They join Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Nigeria, Tunisia and China — the lone automatic qualifier into the field, a perk that comes with hosting — as the teams that have locked up spots.
Canada, Brazil, and Venezuela could also qualify Monday, depending on various outcomes.
Canada plays at Brazil.