Team USA begins FIBA campaign with dominant win over New Zealand

Team USA opened their FIBA World Cup campaign with a huge win over New Zealand (FIBA)

By Leobert Julian A. de la Peña

Team USA Basketball made sure they’ll leave a long-lasting impression in their first game of the FIBA World Cup.

The Americans displayed their usual firepower and proved to be too much for the New Zealand national hoops team after crushing them, 99-72, last August 26, 2023, held at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.

New Zealand provided an early scare in the opening quarter after controlling the pace of the game while taking a slim lead in the first eight minutes of the ball game.

However, as soon as Orlando Magic’s lottery pick Paolo Banchero checked in midway through the opening frame, the complexion of the match changed after his energy sparked team USA to retake the lead.

Banchero was dominant on both ends of the floor, spearheading a team USA rally that helped them snatch away the momentum from New Zealand.

It was all USA in the second half as New Zealand failed to trim their deficit to under five points and could only watch the loose Americans run the show in the fast break.

Banchero then swelled USA’s lead to 16 points after hitting a step-back three-point jumper with only 53 seconds left heading into the final frame, 74-58.

Despite the minor adjustments New Zealand made by doubling up their paint defensive pressure to neutralize USA’s drives, Anthony Edwards and Austin Reaves denied the Tall Blacks of a final offensive run after piling up the steals to reward their teammates with several easy deuces.

Banchero led the young USA squad after dropping a game-high 21-point production built from an efficient 8/10 shooting from the field.

Aside from his offensive efficiency, Bancero also anchored USA’s defensive department and tallied four blocks alongside four rebounds.

Edwards backstopped Banchero with 14 markers and seven rebounds while Reaves and Memphis’ star center Jarren Jackson Jr. collected 12 points each.

Awaiting team USA in their second preliminary phase in Group C is team Greece today, August 28, 2023, still to be held in MOA.