The United States received its toughest challenge in the FIBA U-19 World Championship in the gold medal game. Croatia's Luka Bozic made his first of two free throws with four seconds left to tie the score in regulation, but missed the final attempt. The game headed into overtime, where Jalen Brunson and Jayson Tatum carried the USA to a 79-71 victory to claim gold on Sunday in Greece.
The Croatians put together an impressive effort to keep the score close throughout the game without star forward Dragan Bender (who sat out due to a shoe company dispute) and injured center Ante Zizic, but eventually the American's talent advantage proved to be too much. Brunson, who will play for Villanova next season, was the star of the show, finishing with 14 points, seven assists and zero turnovers in 40 minutes of play.
Three other United States scorers finished in double figures, led by Harry Giles (13 points, 16 rebounds) and Tatum (13 points). Josh Jackson also added 10 points and eight rebounds for America in the victory.
The United States opened up overtime with a 10-0 run and never looked back. Tatum's breakaway slam was the highlight of the extra session:
The United States won its first five games by an average of more than 32 points per game, but things got decidedly more difficult for coach Sean Miller's team in the last two games. Greece gave the United States all it could handle playing in front of its home crowd on Saturday, but eventually Brunson (30 points) and Giles (13 points and 11 rebounds) led the Americans to victory.
High schoolers Giles, Tatum and Jackson -- the consensus top three recruits in the class of 2016 -- were the story of the tournament from start to finish for the United States. Giles' second quarter slam off a feed from Tatum woke the U.S. up after a slow start:
It was even more difficult against Croatia on Sunday. The United States beat the Croatians in group play by 22 on June 28, but it was never that easy in the gold medal game. Nik Slavica led the Croatians with 23 points and five rebounds. Marko Arapovic added 16 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out late in the fourth quarter.