RECIFE, Brazil (AP) — The only thing that surprised the U.S. AmeriCup team in its tournament-opening matchup was the outcome.
Saturday was a regrouping day for the Americans, who opened AmeriCup — the championship of the FIBA Americas region — with a 73-67 loss to Mexico in Group C a day earlier. Play in that group resumes Sunday, with the U.S. (0-1) facing Venezuela (1-0) and Panama (0-1) meeting Mexico (1-0).
Venezuela and Mexico could clinch quarterfinal berths with wins. There are only three games per nation in group play, with the 12 teams competing in AmeriCup divided into four-team groups. The top two teams in each group, along with the two best third-place teams, go to the knockout round.
“I think it’s what we kind of expected,” U.S. coach Alex Jensen said. “It’s a different game. It’s physical. … I think one thing we’re looking forward to is getting better. As a group, we haven’t had a lot of time together, but this will give us plenty of opportunities for that.”
Turnovers doomed the U.S. in the Mexico game; the Americans — with a roster of players who primarily will be on G League or international teams this coming season — gave the ball away 18 times. But a win on Sunday would put the Americans right back into the mix for a quarterfinal berth.
“It’s a great learning experience,” U.S. guard Jeremy Pargo said. “The goal is to get better each and every game. We slipped up (Friday), but we’ve got to get better. It’s the first experience for a lot of us.”
The tournament doesn’t affect the ongoing qualifying for next year’s Basketball World Cup; the Americans are in position to clinch a berth in that tournament in the next window of qualifying games in November. But it will have some impact on the formula used to compute the world rankings, where USA Basketball — the four-time reigning Olympic gold medalist — is No. 1 on the FIBA list.
“We’re here as USA and we’re going to come out and represent better for USA in the next game,” Pargo said.
In opening games in Group B, Puerto Rico topped the Dominican Republic 88-82 and Argentina rolled past the Virgin Islands 95-62. Later Saturday in Group A, Canada beat Uruguay 84-78, and Brazil routed Colombia 100-60.
Along with the Group C games, Group B also is in action Sunday, with the Dominican Republic facing the Virgin Islands and Argentina meeting Puerto Rico. Group A — Brazil, Colombia, Uruguay and Canada — has Sunday off.
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