Potential college stars fade in U20 USA loss to Lithuania

26 Jun

Michigan's Tim Hardaway. Jr. was one of the few bright spots in a blowout loss to Lithuania.

By Justin Young
National Hoops Report

Jet leg? Maybe. A cross-globe flight may have been the reason why the USA U19 World Championship team lost to Lithuania’s U20 team 101-72 this weekend.

Michigan guard Tim Hardaway, Jr., led the United States team with 18 points and came alive in the second half. He scored 16 points in the second stanza but it wasn’t enough.

Memphis guard Joe Jackson scored 13 points and grabbed a team high eight rebounds. He was tops in assists with five and steals with four.

“I expected us to play better. I don’t think we played very well,” USA head coach Paul Hewitt said.

“I thought the thing we learned from this game is just how physical the game is. We have to raise our level of physicality, especially on the defense end, firing through screens, and on the offensive end, setting better screens. I thought in the first half we were a little timid, a little light on our screens. In the second half, especially in the third quarter, we did as better job. We picked it up defensively, picked it up offensively and did much better.”

Clearly this is not the start that Hewitt or any of the Americans wanted. The team started slow but finished strong.

Coming out of locker room at halftime with new found energy, the USA defense stepped up and the U.S. outscored its foe 28-13 to close the score to 72-55 after three quarters. Lithuania was held in the third stanza to 20.0 percent shooting as the hosts made only 3-of-15 field goal attempts and 7-of-12 free throws.

Hardaway had a lot to do with that. The rising sophomore at Michigan could be coming into his own as a collegiate star. He came alive in the second half of the season last year for the Wolverines and continues to play like one of the top players in the game.

In fact, the trip to Lithuania may be the platform Hardaway, Jr. needs to cement his name on the list of the best returning players in college basketball for next season.

But Hardaway, Jr., can’t do it on his own. Jackson, and UConn’s Jeremy Lamb should do plenty. After a somewhat quiet rookie campaign at Memphis, Jackson could be the sparkplug to Memphis’s likely success this season. Lamb was the hottest player in the NCAA tournament last year and will be the go-to guy for the Huskies this year.

Khyle Marshall, the star-in-waiting at Butler this season, was 0-for-7 in the game. Patric Young, Florida’s muscle man inside, grabbed six rebounds in 25 minutes. He’s a potential lottery pick next year. Clearly, he’s got to do better.

Truth be told, this is a less than over-whelming roster for the United States. But a 30-point loss? Either jet lag was an issue or the players that are expected to be stars this season maybe aren’t as ready for the spotlight as we tend to believe.

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