FIBA Americas: Who can stop Puerto Rico?

FIBA Americas

It’s Day 6 of the FIBA Americas and the first games of the second stage of the competition are done. Puerto Rico doesn’t show any signs of wavering as they remain undefeated (4-0), downing Argentina. Will Puerto Rico’s next opponents, the Dominican Republic find their weakness, or will Puerto Rico continue on a similar path as Iran in FIBA Asia, and come away unscathed throughout the tournament?

Canada is still keeping things close with their record of 3-1. Jamaica should be hitting the panic button as they and Uruguay are currently padding the cellar of the standings. It’s an open brawl in the middle with the rest of the teams holding identical 2-2 records.

Puerto Rico (4-0) vs. Argentina (2-2), 94:80

It was a great battle between two of the tournament’s biggest heavyweights. Argentina came out focused and with their guns blazing. They took control of the game at the beginning while Puerto Rico appeared sluggish on the defensive end, while also turning the ball over far too often for comfort. Slowly, Puerto Rico began to get into their flow, but they faced a 9-point deficit at the end of the first quarter, 23:14.

Puerto Rico turned things around in the second quarter and came out with more aggression on the defensive end. Luis Scola (206 cm) did his best to keep the Puerto Rican team at bay with his offense. It was their outside touch that allowed Puerto Rico to close the gap at the end of the half and were found themselves down by only five points, 44:49.

In the second half Puerto Rico was able to carryover their momentum and eventually took the lead from the South Americans, thanks to the efforts of Carlos Arroyo (188 cm, FIU’01) and Renaldo Balkman  (201 cm, South Carolina’06). At the end of the third it was now Argentina that trailed their opponents, 62:70. In final period Scola sparked a run for Argentina, allowing them to retake the lead, 75:74, but it was a final push by Puerto Rico led once again by Arroyo, Balkman and now Jose Juan Barea (181 cm, Northeastern’06) to secure the victory.

Balkman led the victors with his 23 points and six rebounds. He could not be stopped as converted on 10 of his 12 shots from the field. Carlos Arroyo added 19 points and five assists. Puerto Rico had a total of five players who scored in double figures, displaying a balanced and spirited attack.

Luis Scola led his Argentinian team with 23 points and seven rebounds of his own, while Selem Safar added 15 points of his own. Facundo Campazzo (179 cm) was excellent in quarterbacking for his team with 11 points and 8 assists in what ended up being a valiant effort on the losing end of the game.

Dominican Republic (2-2) vs. Jamaica (0-4), 78:60

The game started out shaky for both teams, neither of whom could get their shooting stroke going. It was the Dominicans who were able to get their bearings first and took down the first quarter 17:11. Jamaica still failed to mount anything consistent on offense in the second quarter, allowing the Dominicans to mount a seven-point run early. When Jamaica finally did show signs of life, DOM stepped on the gas and just mounted an even more aggressive counter-rally to finish the half way ahead, 42:29.

The Dominicans became complacent with their lead when it came to the fourth quarter allowing Jamaica to come to within nine thanks to a 6-0 run sparked by Jamaican-Americans Patrick Ewing Jr. (203 cm, Georgetown’08) and Durand Scott (196 cm, Miami Florida’13). The Dominicans were able to weather the Jamaican’s fourth quarter storm and finish with an 18-point lead.

The Dominican Republic team rode on the shoulders of Dominican-American James Feldeine (193 cm, Quinnpiac’10) who was just unstoppable with his 22 points, five rebounds and three assists. Even though Jack Michael Martinez (201 cm)was the only other Dominican to score in double digits with 13 points, but six other guys were able to score at least six points each, giving the team’s offense a more balanced hue.

Akeem Scott (186 cm, High Point’06) and Durand Scott were the sole bright spots for Jamaica, scoring 21 and 14 points, respectively.

Mexico (2-2) vs. Canada (3-1), 67:89

Canada vs Mexico 2013

Canada continues to do its best to keep pace with tournament leaders, Puerto Rico. Canada’s convincing win over Mexico, keeps them firmly in the thick things. They are just patiently waiting for the Puerto Rican team to show a weakness and then they expect to pounce.

Mexico could do little to address the Canadian bombardment from beyond the arc as Canada converted 16 of their 28 attempts from long range. Not even Gustavo Ayon’s convincing double-double performance, with 19 points and 11 rebounds, was enough to keep his Canadian opponents away. Mexican-American Orlando Mendez-Valdez (185 cm, Western Kentucky’09) was the only one who found the mark consistently from the outside as he knocked down 3 of 5 from downtown en route to his 23-point performance for the contest. His team missed a total of 17 of their 22 attempts from three-point range.

Canada’s Andrew Rautins (193 cm, Syracuse’10), Brady Heslip (188 cm) and Cory Joseph (190 cm, Texas’11) were simply on fire and combined for 12 of Canada’s 16 landed triples. Thus is the general case in most basketball games, when a team with good shooters who find their stroke, simply bombard their opponents into submission, spelled the outcome of this contest.

Venezuela (2-2) vs. Ururguay (1-3), 70:64

The hosts were able to come away with a victory to keep them in contention for the title. At 2-2, Venezuela still needs to get a good winning streak going in order to stay competitive. As things stand now, both Uruguay and Jamaica are on track to be the next casualties to be eliminated from the second stage. That’s unless either team can pull off an impressive sweep of their next few games.

Venezuela started off solid as they took control of the game early on as they showed more consistency on the offensive end of the floor compared to Ururguay. Venezuela simply dictated the pace and tempo of the game from start to finish and didn’t allow any of Uruguay’s rallies in the final quarter to threaten their lead. Thanks to a balanced attack, sharing the ball and looking for the open man; Venezuela executed their game plan to a tee. Puert0 Rican-Venezuelan Rafael Perez (193 cm) led his team with just 14 points, but it was Donta Smith (201 cm, South Eastern Illinois JC’04) who brought the “intangibles” to the table. Smith did an excellent yeoman job, tallying nine points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals.

Uruguay was led by the tandem of Italian-Uruguayan Nicolas Mazzarino (181 cm) and Spanish-Uruguayan Esteban Batista (208 cm). All of Mazzarino’s points came from three-point land, with 6-8 shooting for 18 points, while Batista added 17 points and five rebounds.

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