Ukraine faced mission impossible to keep their hopes of making the knockout stages alive and brought the fight to USA but in the end they couldn’t compete with the superior quality of the favourites, writes Emmet Ryan.
Ukraine entered this game knowing that only a victory of historic proportions would see them continue in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. For the USA it was another chance to tune up before the greater tests that lie ahead. With far more to play for, the Ukrainians came out strong defensively and kept Mike Krzyzewski’s men without a field goal through the opening 4.45 before James Harden finally made a lay-up as the underdogs moved into a 5 point lead. The American offence finally got going but Ukraine had a response every time. This was a team playing for its World Cup lives, even after this site inadvertently declared them eliminated before tip-off (again I’m really sorry). For the first time this tournament, the USA trailed after the opening quarter as Mike Fratello’s side, aided by a perfect 7 of 7 from the line, held a 19-14 lead.
The second opened with a touch more urgency in the American attack. Ukraine hit back but Coach K’s side drew level 4 minutes into the frame through a Kyrie Irving three. Another from Stephen pushed them ahead 2 minutes late. Ukraine to their credit were determined to make this hard work for the USA and a three from Dmytro Zabirchenko reminded the USA they were in a game. Curry took the hint and responded from deep immediately. At the half the USA had stretched out and were in complete control with a 44-32 lead.
This was the least intense display from the USA since the tournament got under way but with first place assured, they had little reason to force matters in what was a meaningless game for them. Davis was his usual dominant self on the boards, Faried remained efficient, and Irving finally found room to truly stand out for Coach K’s charges. Ukraine retained their fighting spirit through the third but they were in a hole against a team more than capable of upping the tempo if necessary. After three the USA remained well on top, 69-51.
Davis woke the crowd with a steal and fast break dunk early in the fourth, covering 65 feet with just two dribbles in the process. The tone however remained one of Ukrainian grit clashing with American class. Content to control their foes with their jab, the USA strolled home to an easy win.
It was pleasant to see such fight from Ukraine but victory was always a very distant possibility. The defeat ends their involvement in this competition, as tie-breakers guarantee they can’t progress irrespective of the result between Dominican Republic and Turkey.
For the USA it was a solid run-out and getting tested in the opening 10 minutes will help their preparation for the next outing. You can be sure Coach K will remind them of their failure to make a field goal for nearly the first 5 minutes of action and he will expect to come out hard from the off in Barcelona on Saturday when they take on Mexico.
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