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Contending with an early 10 a.m. tipoff and a chilly arena, the 2009 USA Men's U19 World Championship Team (1-0) quickly warmed to the task and demonstrated a balanced effort on both ends of the court that resulted in the victory in New Zealand. The USA men will continue preliminary play on July 3 facing France in another 10 a.m. (Auckland, New Zealand local time) tip.
"I think we've been waiting for this, we've been ready," Tyshawn Taylor, from Jersey City, N.J., said of his team's first competition in the U19 World Championships. "We've been practicing for a couple of weeks real hard and we were ready to take it out on someone else and I think we showed that today."
Featuring seven players who scored in double-digits, the USA's balanced scoring effort was obvious with 10 of the team's 12 players scoring between seven and the team best 13 points. Taylor led the way with 13 points on 6-of-7 shooting, including 1-2 from three-point range, with three assists and two steals. Seth Curry (Duke / Charlotte, N.C.) added 12 points, while John Shurna (Northwestern / Glen Ellyn, Ill.) and Terrico White (Mississippi / Memphis, Tenn.) each accounted for 11 points.
DeAngelo Casto (Washington State / Spokane, Wash.), Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh / Scotch Plains, N.J.) and Howard Thompkins (Georgia / Lithonia, Ga.) scored 10 points apiece in the win.
"One thing we did pretty well was shoot the ball and we made some extra passes, made good decisions. We need to cut down on some turnovers, but I think it was a good start," remarked USA and University of Pittsburgh head coach Jamie Dixon. "We know we've got to get better as this tournament continues so this is the first one and hopefully we've got something to build on.
"I think we're going to play a lot of guys. I think that's strength of ours. We don't see a lot of difference between our 12 guys. There's not really a lot of separation. That may be a little different than most teams, but that's what we have so we're going to use that as strength of ours, play a lot of guys so fatigue should not be an issue for us because of that. We really just want to keep our energy and intensity as we rotate 12 guys," Dixon added.
Whether it was the early start or cold gym, the USA struggled with its long-range shooting early and trailed Iran 10-8 with 5:00 to play in the opening quarter.
However, the 3-ball suddenly started falling for the U.S. after the midway point of the first quarter and after 3-pointers from Gibbs, Taylor and Shurna on consecutive U.S. possessions, the USA pushed out to 17-12 lead .
Following a Shurna hoop inside, Klay Thompson (Washington State / Ladera Ranch, Calif.) added another three and the U.S. closed out the period with two 3-pointers from Curry that were sandwiched around a pair of free throws from Shurna which left the Americans holding a comfortable 30-13 lead after the first 10 minutes.
"I think we all played hard and I think when we just played and we're having fun," Taylor said. "I think everyone gelled because the other guys are real good and we play together as a team. For some guys who have just been playing together for two weeks, I think we play good as a team. I think on the court we all like each other and the chemistry is real good and I like that."