BARRANQUILLA, Colombia — USA Basketball is on the brink of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
John Jenkins scored 26 points as the US defeated Colombia 95-77 on Monday night in a second-round qualifying game. The win put the Americans in position to secure a spot at the World Cup, which is due to take place in a year’s time in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia, when the next game window takes place in mid-November.
Langston Galloway and DaQuan Jeffries each scored 14 points for the US, which gave up the first basket of the game, then scored the next 12 points and never lost again.
“Coming out with this win is a big moment for us,” Jenkins said. “We are very excited”.
Jenkins was stellar in this two-game window for the US, including the Americans’ 105-71 victory over Uruguay on Thursday in Las Vegas. His numbers in those games: 48 points on 17-of-25 shooting, an amazing 14-of-21 from 3-point range.
He was 8-for-14 from beyond the arc on Monday, the last three of those 3-pointers coming in the final minutes of the quarter as the US pulled away.
“His leadership has been the biggest part of this,” US coach Jim Boylen said. “He loves to play on the road. He loves to play in hostile places. And he’s in great shape. He came in in great shape. He believes in USA Basketball. He believes in what we’re doing. He’s elite at following a game plan.” and he’s a veteran player who enjoys wearing the United States uniform.”
It would take nothing short of a total collapse for the US to fail to qualify for the World Cup. The Americans are in a six-team group in this qualifying round, with the top three teams in the group guaranteed spots in next year’s 32-nation field.
The United States is 7-1, two games ahead of Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay (all 5-3) in Pool F. Puerto Rico is 4-4 and Colombia is 3-5. There are only four qualifying games left for each team.
A couple of quarter-end streaks proved crucial for the US.
The Americans outscored Colombia 8-2 in the final minute of the second quarter, turning what was a seven-point lead into a 45-32 halftime lead. And in the third, a 14-6 run to end the period gave the US a 70-50 lead going into the final 10 minutes of play.
“We kept going, we kept fighting, we kept playing, and the shots started falling,” Jenkins said.
USA: The US trailed by 2:22 of a possible 80 minutes in the two games during this qualifying window, the other matchup being Thursday’s 105-71 victory over Uruguay in Las Vegas. … The Americans have won their last six qualifying games, averaging 20.3 points. … Eric Mika finished with a team-high seven points and nine rebounds.
Colombia: Braian Angola had a team-high 18 points. … The hosts were outscored 51-12 from 3-point range.
In other Group F qualifying games on Monday, Mexico outscored Brazil 82-72 and Uruguay defeated Puerto Rico 78-70.
In Group E, the other group of six teams in the FIBA Americas region standings, Canada remains in control. The Canadians outscored Panama 106-50 on Monday night. Venezuela beat the Dominican Republic 76-72 and Argentina beat the Bahamas 95-77.
Canada is 8-0, Venezuela is 7-1 and Argentina is 6-2, meaning those nations have the inside track for the top three spots in that group and a World Cup berth. . The Dominican Republic is now 5-3, and Panama and the Bahamas are 2-6.
In addition to the Philippines and Japan, who qualified as host nations, some places in the 32-team World Cup field have been secured in recent days. FIBA, basketball’s governing body, said Finland, Lebanon, Ivory Coast and New Zealand are now also officially in next year’s tournament.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
USA: Host Brazil on November 11, site to be confirmed.
Colombia: faces Puerto Rico on November 11.