By ADRIAN STEWART CO
The United States men’s basketball team overcame a slow start to defeat New Zealand, 99-72, at the start of their 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign at the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City on Saturday night, August 26.
Paolo Banchero spearheaded the offense with 21 points to go with four blocks, four rebounds and two assists, while Anthony Edwards added 14 markers and seven boards for Team USA.
Austin Reaves and Jaren Jackson, Jr. each ended up with 12 markers, while Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton contributed 10 points apiece for the Steve Kerr-mentored squad.
Down 4-14 early in the contest, Team USA slowly clawed their way back behind Banchero and Reaves for a slim 19-18 lead before Edwards came up with some hits in the second quarter for a 45-36 halftime lead.
Team USA started slowly in the third period as New Zealand managed to cut the deficit to 41-49 before Reaves, Jackson and Banchero unloaded consecutive points to widen the lead to 76-58.
The offensive onslaught continued for the Americans in the fourth quarter with Haliburton and Brunson connecting on their outside shots as the lead reached its largest at 27 points late in the game.
Reuben Te Rangi top-scored with 15 points, including three outside conversions. Finn Delany and Shea Ili added 12 markers apiece, while Yannick Wetzell ended with 10 points for New Zealand.
Meanwhile, defending champions Spain opened their defense with a lopsided 94-64 domination of the Cote D’Ivore at the Jakarta Arena in Indonesia late Saturday night.
Willy Hernangomez led the way with 22 points, Usman Garuba added 12 markers, while Juancho Hernangomez contributed 11 markers in limited action for the Spanish basketball squad.
USA 99 — Banchero 21, Edwards 14, Jackson Jr. 12, Reaves 12, Haliburton 10, Brunson 10, Bridges 7, Hart 5, Portis 4, Ingram 2, Johnson 2, Kessler 0.
NEW ZEALAND 72 — Te Rangi 15, Delany 12, Ili 12, Wetzell 10, Le’Afa 9, Cameron 5, Fotu 4, Smith-Milner 3, Britt 2, Brown 0, Harris 0, Ngatai 0.
Quarterscores: 19-18, 45-36, 76-58, 99-72./ASC, WDJ