Team USA Falls to Mexico in World Cup Qualifier
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MEXICO CITY — Jeff Van Gundy warned the Americans that they were in for a serious challenge.
To his chagrin, he was right, and the U.S. was handed a rare loss.
Francisco Cruz scored 24 points, Mexico opened with an 18-0 run and went on to beat the United States 78-70 on Thursday night in a qualifying game for next year’s FIBA World Cup.
According to USA Basketball, it was just the second loss by the U.S. in 30 games against Mexico — with the other defeat coming in the 2011 Pan Am Games.
Orlando Mendez-Valdez added 20 points for Mexico, which held the U.S. scoreless for the first 5:51 and forced the Americans into missing their first 10 shots from the floor.
“Mexico dominated us from the start and that’s on me,” Van Gundy said. “We were not ready to compete at the level Mexico did. Give them all the credit, they played a great, great game.”
Marcus Thornton scored 14 points for the U.S., which is using a roster composed primarily of G League players for the qualifying rounds. Xavier Munford added 11 points while David Stockton and Reggie Hearn each had 10 for the Americans.
The U.S. lost for the first time in 10 contests under Van Gundy, who is coaching this team that’s tasked with getting the team of NBA stars that will be coached by Gregg Popovich to the World Cup.
“We can’t underestimate how hard it is going to be to play on the road, at altitude, and against a team desperate to qualify for the FIBA World Cup,” Van Gundy said leading up to the game. “We have to make sure we match that type of intensity and passion that we know they’ll bring.”
By the time the U.S. found its stride, it was already in deep trouble. Mexico led 31-10 after the first quarter, then staved off a big second-half rally try by the U.S.
Trey McKinney-Jones’ basket late in the third quarter