Sasser Shines for USA|
July 18, 1998
MONTE CARLO, Monaco - With 13 of 15 USA finalists scoring, including five in double figures, the 1998 USA Basketball Men's World Championship Team dominated France defensively to help fuel the Americans to an impressive 93-63 victory in its first exhibition game Saturday night in Monte Carlo. 1998 Purdue University graduate Brad Miller paced the USA attack with a game high 17 points.
"I was extremely pleased with our performance tonight, especially on the defensive end. This team hasn't been together for a long time and we have to establish an identity and a style of play that is best for us to be successful and I feel that it has to start at the defensive end. We're probably going to be smaller than most teams, so we have to be very aggressive on that end of the court. Then on offense, again because of size and because I think we'll have the advantage athletically, we have to use movement to create offensive situations and I think both those things were very evident tonight," stated USA head mentor Rudy Tomjanovich.
"It was good first step in our process. I think we're going to become a better team because we're just getting to know each other. I believe a basketball team has to go through a process to become to become a successful team and this is just the first step.
"When a group of individuals work hard together and start believing in each other and trusting in each other, wonderful things happen. I have experienced that in the NBA. We have a great bunch of guys. The stuff the we put in, an unbelievable amount of our system in a short amount of time, I don't know how they picked it up. These guys have been great. What I like about this team, and I like them more and more every day, is that they are pulling together as a team quickly. Our true test will be when we have to deal with adversity. It's easy to be together when you have success. When we do have a down time in a game or when we lose a game, that's a true test of a team," added Tomjanovich.
Harassed by an aggressive USA defense, France missed its first five shots, committed four turnovers and scored only two free throws during the game's opening five minutes as the U.S. jumped out to a 10-2 lead with 15:18 to go in the opening half and never looked back. Leading 25-16 with 7:17 remaining in the half, the USA, receiving nine points from Miller and five more from Wendell Alexis , recorded a 15-0 offensive run the take charge 40-16 with 3:02 to play in the half. Behind 11 points each from Alexis (Alba Berlin, Germany / Syracuse '86) and Miller, the U.S. led comfortably at the break 47-21. The second half remained all USA as the game was never in question as the U.S. settled for the 93-47 win.
While Miller added 6 rebounds to go with his 17 points, Alexis finished with 13 points, five rebounds and four steals, while David Wood scored 12 points and Jimmy Oliver and Jason Sasser each tallied 10 points. Jimmy King led the USA rebounding effort with seven, while 5-5 guard Earl Boykins recorded a game best six assists.
The American team shot the ball well, hitting 55.4 percent of its field goal attempts including 50.0 percent of its three-point tried. Also controlling the glass by 38-20 margin, the USA defense forced 25 French turnovers and allowed their opponens to shoot just 43.2 percent from the field.
The exhibition against France is the first of three scheduled exhibition games in Europe for the USA team during its pre-World Championship training. The U.S. will also play July 19 against the Spanish National Team in Monte Carlo and in Rome, Italy on July 25 against the Italian National Team.
The U.S. team will train in Monte Carlo through July 23, then travels to Rome, Italy, where it will train July 23-25. Arriving in Athens, Greece, on July 26, the 13th FIBA Men's World Championship will be held July 29-August 9 in Athens with teams from 16 countries competing for the gold medal. The United States begins World Championship preliminary round play on July 29 against Brazil, and continues preliminary round play on July 30 versus Lithuania and July 31 against South Korea. Second Round Group play is slated to be conducted August 2-4, with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals action to be held August 7-9.
Currently the USA Team consists of 15 finalists, including: Alexis; Ashraf Amaya(Idaho Stampede / Southern Illinois '93); Earl Boykins (Eastern Michigan '98); Tim Breaux (Idaho Stampede / Caceres C.B., Spain / Wyoming '92); Mateen Cleaves(Michigan State '00); Bill Edwards (Virtus Rome, Italy / Wright State '93); Kiwane Garris (Grand Rapids / Illinois '97); Michael Hawkins (Olympiakos, Greece / Xavier '95); Gerard King (Siena, Italy / Nichols State 96); Jimmy King (Quad City Thunder / Michigan '95); Trajan Langdon (Duke '99); Miller; Jimmy Oliver (Ciudad De Huelva, Spain / Purdue '91); Jason Sasser (Sioux Falls Skyforce / Caja San Fernando, Spain / Texas Tech '96); David Wood (Rockford Lightning / Spain / Nevada Reno '87).