Columbia, Mo. - Team USA (5-0) had its toughest challenge at the 2011 World University Games on Thursday, but 13 points, five boards and four steals from Mizzou standout Marcus Denmon helped the Americans earn a 94-84 win over Israel (2-3) and advance from Group D play with a perfect 5-0 record.
A native of Kansas City, Mo., Denmon turned in his most complete effort of the championships hitting 5-of-10 shots from the floor, including a trey, in 19 minutes. He was one of four U.S. members in double figures and finished second on the club in scoring to Alabama's JaMychal Green. His four steals led all players and his five rebounds were tops amongst guards.
"I give Israel a lot of credit, they played hard and played together," Denmon said. "We really weren't making our shots early and we had to fight back a bit. We finally got it going in the second half and we were able to create some distance from them, but they are a good team."
Team USA trailed by two at halftime (43-41), but outscored Israel 29-19 in the third quarter to take control. Israel's Anton Shoutvin led all scorers with 20 points in 37 minutes and 22-of-28 foul shooting by the Israelis kept the game tight. The Americans were slowed by 16 turnovers and hit just 15-of-25 free throws in the 10-point victory.
The USA will face Lithuania (4-1), the No. 2 seed from Group C, in the quarterfinals at 5 a.m. (CT) on Aug. 20. Both Team USA and Lithuania will be off on Aug. 19. The semifinals are scheduled for Aug. 21, and the finals will be played on Aug. 22.
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On today's game: "Israel was out there playing hard. They made their shots early and we weren't making shots. They capitalized off of our missed shots and got out in transitions. I felt we made the adjustment in the second half and came out with the win."
Do you think their halftime lead gave them confidence? "Definitely. I'm sure with them coming in as the underdog, they wanted to come out and compete with us and they did. Give credit to them, they came out and played hard. At the end we got the most important stat and that was the win."
Was it good to get a game like this under your belt before the medal round, especially after all the blowouts? "I thought it was good for us. We even said at halftime that it was something we needed. Winning by 40 points can be good, but it's not always the kinds of games you want to have because then you're never really tested. I felt we responded in the second half."
On life off the court in China: "We've been doing a lot of things as a team. We went to a market for shopping. We've been mingling around the village and meeting different people. As a team we're doing different things around the dorm, hanging out. "