A standout performance from Mikal Bridges sent Team USA rolling past Italy and into the semifinals of the FIBA World Cup for the 14th time in the country’s history and the fourth time in the last five outings.
Team USA dropped Italy, 100-63, from the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila as part of the quarterfinal stage of this year’s FIBA World Cup. The quarters marks the beginning of the knockout stage of the tournament.
The win was much needed heading into the knockout stage after the red, white and blue missed out on a chance to enter the new phase undefeated following a loss to Lithuania Sunday.
However, with the win, the country advances to play the winner of Germany/Latvia. The U.S. and the winner of the aforementioned game will compete for a chance to move on to the gold medal game.
By the second quarter in the game against Italy, Bridges had it going on both ends of the floor. He posted 14 points in the first half highlighted by 11 points in the second quarter with two made three-pointers and two and-one layups.
Just before halftime, Bridges and former Villanova teammate Jalen Brunson had accounted for 21 points as a duo versus 22 total points from Italy. Midway through the third quarter, the former Wildcats trio of Bridges, Brunson and forward Josh Hart combined for 36 total points against just 34 points for their opponent.
Bridges finished with a game-high 24 points on 8-of-11 from the floor including four made threes. His performance was so invigorating for his Team USA group that his technical foul for taunting the Italy bench following his signature three-point celebration couldn’t stop the momentum.
Prior to the explosion of Bridges in the second quarter and beyond, the Americans’ bench held down the fort early, allowing the country to build a 10-point lead in the first quarter. Back-to-back threes from forward Brandon Ingram and guard Tyrese Haliburton started the offensive avalanche.
In his first 4:19 minutes of court time, Haliburton racked up three assists after entering the game averaging five per contest.
The lid really came off in the second quarter as the lead swelled to 29 points. A dunk from forward Paolo Banchero put Team USA up 20. Previously, Banchero had expressed his intention to play for Italy’s national team prior to getting the call from the red, white and blue.
Highlight reel plays didn’t stop there as Haliburton put the team up 23 on a made deep ball while teammate Austin Reaves’ putback dunk energized the building and put the Americans up 24.
Things would only get worse for Italy in the second half. Late in the third quarter, Haliburton found Banchero for another alley-oop, this time the pass went between the legs on the fast break. Prior to that, Banchero was successful on a dunk following a steal on defense which came moments before a three-pointer from guard Austin Reaves.
Team USA went up by as many as 40 points in the fourth quarter as Haliburton finished with 18 points with six made threes to go along with five assists, four rebounds and three steals. Reaves added 12 points of his own to round out the double-figure scorers.