Kansas freshman combo guard Quentin Grimes scored a game-high 20 points and dished four assists as USA Basketball’s under-18 men’s national team defeated Puerto Rico 115-71 in a final preliminary-round game at the FIBA Americas U18 Championship on Tuesday in St. Catharines, Canada.
The 6-foot-5 Grimes, who attended College Park High in The Woodlands, Texas, hit 9 of 17 shots while starting and playing 28 minutes. He was 2 of 8 from 3-point range and 0 of 2 from the free-throw line. He also had had three rebounds and two steals.
Bishop Miege senior Jeremiah Robinson-Earl scored 13 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for the Bill Self-coached U.S. team, which finished the preliminary round with a 3-0 record. Robinson-Earl, a 6-9 power forward, had two steals and a block while starting and playing 20 minutes.
The U.S., which will meet Ecuador in the quarterfinals Thursday, had six players score in double figures. Robinson-Earl and Grimes were joined by Alec White (15), Cole Anthony (14), Matthew Hurt (12) and Mark Watts (11).
Giovanni Santiago scored 17 points for Puerto Rico, which, like the U.S., entered the game with a 2-0 record in Group A.
Grimes scored 10 points as the U.S. opened a 56-29 halftime advantage. For the game, the U.S. cashed 51.2 percent of its shots and was 10 of 25 from three. Team USA had an assist on 32 of 42 made baskets. The USA outrebounded Puerto Rico 50-35.
Even though the U.S. has scored 105, 118 and 115 points in three games, the focus is defense, KU-bound Grimes said on the USA Basketball Facebook page broadcast after the game.
“Coach Self stresses that every day in shootaround before the game — defensively be intense, in their face,” Grimes said. “He lets us have a lot of freedom on the offensive end.”
Asked what he’s working on personally this tournament, Grimes said: “Definitely improve my range to be a lot more consistent at the three-point line. Just being a better leader on this team. I’m know I’m the captain of this USA team, so I definitely want to work on that going into Kansas.”
All eight teams in the tourney advance to the Thursday quarterfinal games. The semifinals will be played Friday and finals Saturday. The top four finishing teams will qualify for the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup.
Panama rout revisited
The U.S. team’s most lopsided victory has been Monday’s 118-26 rout of Panama. In that game, Team USA led 45-0. Panama scored its first basket on a driving layup with 8:02 left in the second quarter.
“Don’t play the score, try play to win each possession. A lot of coach-speak,” KU coach Self said, asked by USAbasketball.com what he stressed to his team once the result was assured. “I thought our guys actually did a pretty decent job. I’ve never seen a score like that after one quarter. After that, they still tried to play the right way.”
Self tried to slow down the game once it became a total rout.
“We had a chance to work a couple of quarters on zone, and who knows if we’ll use it? Then we played some halfcourt man in the third quarter, and they played the zone, too, which slowed the game down,” Self stated.
After the lopsided win, Grimes said the U.S. team was motivated to claim the gold medal.
“It’s my second time playing for the USA, and we lost the first time (in 2018 Nike Hoop Summit) against the World Team. So I definitely want to come out here and get a gold medal, and help lead my team to victory,” he said.