The United States youth team crushed New Zealand 99-72 in the opening round of the FIBA World Cup on Saturday in the Philippines.
Six American players scored in double digits, led by Orlando Magic forward Paolo Panchero. He finished as the NBA Rookie of the Year with 21 points and made 8 of 10 shots. He also blocked four shots and recorded four rebounds.
The United States opened the game very slowly and trailed by 10 points in the first five minutes of the game. But Panchero provided a spark off the bench when he entered the game in the sixth minute, replacing Brandon Ingram. The USA led from that moment, 8-0, six points ahead of Panchero.
Los Angeles Lakers goalkeeper Austin Reeves hit a three-pointer at the end of the first quarter to give the United States their first lead of the game.
The two teams traded buckets for most of the second quarter before the USA pulled away with a slew of free throws. The USA entered halftime with a 45-36 lead and continued to build on that for the rest of the game.
Minnesota Timberwolves’ Anthony Edwards led the rest of the United States with 14 points and seven rebounds in the win. Reeves and Memphis Grizzlies’ Justin Jackson Jr. scored 12 points each, with six assists from Reeves and four rebounds from Jackson Jr. Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Halliburton and New York Knicks guard each scored 10 points.
The United States faces Greece next Monday. Greece will be without Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, who has already announced he will miss the FIBA World Cup after undergoing off-season knee surgery.