U.S. fin­ishes 7th at World Cup

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Sports - By TIM REYNOLDS

Dono­van Mitchell scored 16 points and handed out 10 as­sists, Joe Har­ris scored 14 and the U.S. de­feated Poland 87-74 for sev­enth place at the World Cup. Khris Mid­dle­ton had 13 points, six re­bounds and six as­sists for the Amer­i­cans, who will head home with a 6-2 record — yet their worst plac­ing ever in a World Cup, world cham­pi­onship as it used to be known, or Olympics. Der­rick White scored 12 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the U.S.

BEI­JING — Their fi­nal game at the World Cup had been over for sev­eral min­utes, and ev­ery mem­ber of the U.S. team and coach­ing staff were still lin­ger­ing to­gether on the court.

They were ready to go home.

They just weren’t ready to go their sep­a­rate ways.

For USA Bas­ket­ball, sum­mer ended Satur­day with an 87-74 win over Poland in the sev­enth-place game at the World Cup, the low­est fin­ish ever by a U.S. team in a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional tour­na­ment. Dono­van Mitchell fin­ished with 16 points and 10 as­sists, Joe Har­ris scored 14 and the U.S. wrapped up its stay in China with a 6-2 record.

And when it was over, as his play­ers signed each other’s jer­seys in the locker room as sou­venirs, U.S. coach Gregg Popovich in­sisted this team has noth­ing to be ashamed about.

“If you don’t win, some peo­ple will play the blame game,” Popovich said. “There’s no blame to be placed any­where. They play the shame game, like we should be ashamed be­cause we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridicu­lous at­ti­tude. It’s im­ma­ture. It’s ar­ro­gant. And it shows that who­ever thinks that doesn’t re­spect all the other teams in the world and doesn’t re­spect that these guys did the best they could.”

Khris Mid­dle­ton had 13 points, six re­bounds and six as­sists for the Amer­i­cans. Der­rick White scored 12 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the U.S., which led by 17 at the half but had to stave off a Poland rally in the fi­nal min­utes.

The mantra the Amer­i­cans car­ried into Satur­day was to fin­ish the trip the right way, and they got it done.

“I’m go­ing to look back on it and have un­be­liev­able mem­o­ries,” Har­ris said. “These are friend­ships that are very unique, where we’ve formed a spe­cial bond go­ing through what we just did to­gether. ... Some of these guys who I might not have had a chance to know other­wise are now some of my clos­est friends. It’s unique in that way.”

There was lit­tle to play for ex­cept pride — and the Amer­i­cans were play­ing with the re­al­iza­tion that for some of them, it eas­ily could be their last time wear­ing the red, white and blue uni­forms with “USA” across the chest. The ros­ter for the U.S. trip to the Tokyo Olympics next sum­mer is likely to look con­sid­er­ably dif­fer­ent than this one.

“For me, this is an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence,” Mitchell said. “Ev­ery­body likes to look at the end goal, but when you sit back and re­flect, I played on Team USA. That’s in­cred­i­ble for me. I think that in it­self is amaz­ing. So yes, it was def­i­nitely worth it.”

Poland coach Mike Tay­lor also found the World Cup most

United States’ coach Gregg Popovich looks on af­ter a con­so­la­tion play­off game against Poland for the FIBA Bas­ket­ball World Cup at the Cadil­lac Arena in Bei­jing on Satur­day. U.S. de­feated Poland 87-74. worth­while — es­pe­cially Satur­day.

He’s an Amer­i­can, lives in Florida, is proud of how far he’s taken Poland’s pro­gram, knows many of the words to the Pol­ish na­tional an­them — but mouthed along with the words to “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” when it played pregame.

“I’ve been coach­ing with na­tional teams, four years with the Czech Repub­lic and now six years with Poland,” Tay­lor said, his voice crack­ing slightly. “That’s a lot of an­thems you’ve heard. And I never imag­ined in my life that I would hear the United States. It means a lot and it’s not some­thing you take for granted.”

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