The United States overcame a slow start to claim their opening win in Group C against New Zealand at the FIBA World Cup here on Saturday.
Surprisingly falling behind 14-4, the Americans soon answered with a 15-4 run to go up 19-18 at the end of the first quarter, and took control from the second before landing a 99-72 victory.
“It’s a really good game for us. New Zealand are great and they came out very physical. I love the way we responded,” said U.S. head coach Steve Kerr. “Playing against New Zealand, it’s hard to sustain 40 minutes. We sustain as long as we stay with it.”
Paolo Banchero came from the bench to make eight of 10 attempts to lead the U.S. with 21 points and four blocks. Anthony Edwards added 14 points, seven rebounds and three assists.
Also in Group C, Greece held off a strong surge from Jordan in the second half to win 92-71.
Trailing 33-46 at halftime, Jordan cut their deficit to 66-60 at the end of the third quarter and pulled within 67-62 with 8:42 remaining in the game, only to find Greece surge away with a 12-1 burst.
“I would like to congratulate my team for the dedication, for the efforts of everyone and obviously for the win. We did not turn over the ball, we had good looks and we targeted certain players that we wanted to make uncomfortable. It’s a good premiere for us, but now we have to manage the load in the next two games,” said Greece coach Dimitrios Itoudis.
“In the third quarter, I think we were a little bit not concentrated, but the good thing from us is that we realized that we have to get back into the game with the mindset that we had at the beginning and we brought it to the end very smoothly and smart,” he added.
Giannoulis Larentzakis shot 7 of 12 for 19 points, leading four Greek players in double scoring digits, while Jordan were led by Rondae Hollis Jefferson’s 24 points.
In Group B, Serbia eased past China 105-63 while Puerto Rico beat South Sudan 101-96 in overtime. Stephen Thompson spearheaded Puerto Rico with 21 points, with Tremont Waters, George Conditt, Ismael Romero, Isaiah Pineiro and Jordan Howard adding 19, 18, 16, 14 and 11 respectively.
Also on Saturday, Luka Doncic notched 37 points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals and one block to lift Slovenia over Venezuela 100-85 in Group F in Okinawa, where Georgia beat Cape Verde 85-60.
In Jakarta, Brazil trounced Iran 100-59, and Spain beat Cote d’Ivoire 94-64 in Group G.