“Play the right way. Play the right way, guys.”
It was the final plea from Coach Painter as his Team USA Boilermakers started the fourth quarter of the final of five straight games with another big league. Shortly after, Jacquil Taylor would force an Estonian guard to lose the ball, and a half-court pass later, freshman Nojel Eastern would flash his unique athleticism and size as he threw down a two-handed dunk.
For most of the five games, Team USA had done just that. They played right. They played with depth. They played with poise. They played with skill. They played with size.
In the first half, Team USA shot the ball incredibly well making 11 of their 18 three-point attempts. In the second half, they tightened up on defense allowing just 26 points, most coming in garbage time. Team USA leaves group C with five double-digit wins. They now get a much deserved day off before medal rounds start.
Team USA continued their balance play between veterans and freshman. Vincent Edwards led the way with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Carsen Edwards was the only other Team USA player in double figures with an efficient 16 points on 6 of 7 shooting. PJ Thomas, Ryan Cline - 3 first half 3’s - and Nojel Eastern all finished with 9 points. Isaac Haas had his quietest game of the tournament with 5 points in just 11 minutes and Dakota Mathias finished with 8 points.
Team USA had one of their strongest shooting performances in the tournament, making 14 of 29 from beyond the arc, but their defense blew this game out. They put Estonia into a desert beyond the three point line, as they went 5 of 33 while also struggling to finish over Team USA’s length at the basket.
Team USA once again was able to save legs and use their depth. Aaron Wheeler notched 9 minutes in the game and he was the only Team USA player not to reach double figures in minutes. P.J. Thompson ended up leading the team in court time at just under 23 minutes. Team USA continues to get a great showing from Grady Eifert, the former walk-on.
Jacquil Taylor continues to impress by showing a tenacity for rebounding with 14 boards. His defense continues to shine, blocking two shots and forcing a steal that turned into two quick points. He didn’t miss a shot from the floor.
It was a fitting ending to pool play which has treated Team USA to drama-less basketball so far. They’ll play sometime early Saturday but the opponent and time won’t be known until the other groups finish out their last games.