Tagged in: qualifier

United States men’s basketball downs Cuba in World Cup qualifier

There were some cheers for “The Star-Spangled Banner” before USA Basketball’s match in Cuba on Independence Day.

And then the Americans celebrated the holiday with a big victory.

Xavier Munford scored 24 points and the U.S. defeated Cuba 87-64 on Monday night to close the first round of qualifying for next year’s Basketball World Cup — improving to 31-1 all time versus the island nation.

“It’s emotional to play on the Fourth of July,” said Jim Boylen, who coached the U.S. in all three of the two-game windows in the opening qualifying round. “It’s emotional to be here with this group of guys, with USA across our chests. It’s a big day. Our country is 246 years old today and we’re just thankful for this moment together.”

Munford was 10 for 12 from the floor for the Americans, who got 13 points from Justin Jackson, 12 from John Jenkins — all from 3-point range — and 10 apiece from Will Davis and Langston Galloway.

“It’s July 4th. No better feeling than to get a win tonight,” Munford said.

Jordan Bell concluded with eight rebounds and six assists for the Americans, whose spot in the second round of qualifying was previously secured. They’ll take a 5-1 record into the second round, well on their way to clinching a spot in the World Cup and moving a big step closer toward getting USA Basketball qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympics.

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Yoel Cubilla led Cuba (0-6) with 15 points.

The Americans will start the second round of World Cup qualifying on Aug. 25, with the expectation that the first matchup will be versus Uruguay in Las Vegas.

The U.S. will also play Aug. 29, probably on the road and likely against Colombia, though FIBA has yet to confirm that as the matchup.

The two road wins on this trip — the Americans beat Puerto Rico on Friday — puts the U.S. in a prime position to qualify for the World Cup. The roster was primarily composed of G League players, as is always the case for the Americans in World Cup qualifying, and Boylen said this group came together quickly.

“We came together 11 days ago and our team was focused, our guys were great, we worked on the basics, we got better every day and I thought we played the right way,” he said. “The ball moved, we grew together, and we cared for each other.”

The U.S. will be grouped with Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Puerto Rico and Colombia in the second round. Also grouped from the Americas region will be Venezuela, Argentina, Panama, Canada, the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

Both of those groups will send three teams to the World Cup; the best fourth-place team from either of those groups will also go, with the Americas region sending seven teams to the tournament that will be played in the summer of 2023 in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia.

Cuba led 16-14 after the first quarter Monday night. But the Americans scored 14 points in the first 2:19 of the second quarter to take command.

“We lost the first quarter, but I thought the second quarter, we responded,” Boylen said.

A 3-pointer by Jackson opened the second quarter and put the U.S. ahead for good. The lead was 49-32 early in the third — ending what was a 35-16 run by the U.S. — and the Americans remained ahead the rest of the way. “The Cuba team was great,” Munford said.

“They came out with a great effort. They made us work for it. They had strong guys. We played well tonight. We executed, took care of the ball, ran our offense and played USA style of basketball.”

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Jurij Rodionov drops Maxime Cressy at Dallas Open

Qualifier Jurij Rodionov of Austria beat sixth-seeded American Maxime Cressy of 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-1 on Tuesday to advance to the round of 16 at the inaugural Dallas Open.

Paris-born Cressy was the first of the eight seeded players to lose his match. A former UCLA player, Cressy now lives in Hermosa Beach, California.

The only other seeded player on the courts was No. 7 Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, California. Giron, another former UCLA Bruin, defeated countryman Tennys Sandgren 6-4, 6-4. The former collegiate player at Tennessee has been ranked as high as 41st in the world.

“I knew I would have to play well. I did a good job playing well on the important points,” Giron said.

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The top four seeds, all Americans — No. 1 Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, John Isner and Jenson Brooksby — had byes to the round of 16. On Wednesday, fifth-seed Adrian Mannarino of France will play a round of 32 match and No. 8 Brandon Nakashima of the U.S. will play in the round of 16.

Just two of the seven singles matches went to a third set.

Qualifier Cedrik-Marcel Stebe of Germany outlasted American Denis Kudla 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3 and will face Opelka on Thursday.

Wild card Jack Sock, a Nebraska native, defeated German Oscar Otte 6-4, 6-4. Sock next will play on Thursday versus Fritz, who reached No. 20 in the world last month.

Qualifier Liam Broady of Great Britain defeated another German, Peter Gojowczyk, 6-1, 6-4, to advance to the round of 16 versus Giron on Wednesday.

Australian Jordan Thompson defeated Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-5, 6-3, and will meet Nakashima on Wednesday.

Tuesday’s final match went to Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan 6-4, 6-4 over American Mitchell Krueger. Nishioka will advance to meet the winner of Mannarino’s match versus American Steve Johnson.

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Sebastian Korda, Hubert Hurkacz advance to Delray Beach Open final

Building on momentum from the French Open, American Sebastian Korda has reached his first ATP Tour final.

Korda, the son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, defeated Cameron Norrie of Britain 6-3, 7-5 in the Delray Beach Open semifinals Tuesday night.

Korda’s opponent Wednesday will be No. 4-seeded Hubert Hurkacz, who defeated American qualifier Christian Harrison 7-6 (4), 6-4.

Korda, 20, is a former world No. 1 junior who earned his first three tour-level wins in September at the French Open to reach the round of 16.

“For me the biggest thing was getting my consistency up,” the 6-foot-5 Florida native said. “Before, I would miss balls I don’t miss now. It’s super big for me to be playing these matches, and getting a feel for my body and growing into my body.”

Korda trained in December with Andre Agassi, and they talked by phone after his latest triumph.

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“He’s super pumped,” said Korda, who arrived at Delray Beach ranked 119th. In his first career quarterfinal, he beat No. 2-seeded John Isner on Monday.

Against Norrie, Korda squandered two match points serving at 5-4 and lost the game, but broke back and then easily served out the match. He lost only seven points on his first serve.

Hurkacz’s only other career final came in 2019, when he won at Winston-Salem to become the second Polish tour-level champion in the Open era.

He’s ranked 35th, and his success at Delray Beach means he might be seeded at next month’s Australian Open. That would permit  him to avoid such title contenders as Rafael Nadal or Novak Djokovic in the first round, he noted.

“Obviously it’s a step forward, and I want to be playing better and better,” Hurkacz said. “It’s a great start of the year.”

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