The United States of America are back on top of the FIBA U19 World Cup.
Two years after finishing a record low, third-place in Cairo Egypt — the Americans defeated and ended rising African champion’s historic basketball run with a 93-79 victory over Mali to claim the 2019 U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece.
The USA fought off a hot and confident Mali squad playing in their first ever FIBA World Cup finals to win their record seventh FIBA U19 gold medal.
Mali got off to an outstanding start on the strength of Hassan Drame’s 9 points, as Mali ripped off a 11-0 run and took a early 11-3 lead with 6:58 to play. The USA pounded Mali on the offensive glass pulling down 13 offensive rebounds on their way to out-rebounding the African side 19-12 in the quarter to quickly close the gap as Mali led 22-20 lead after 10 minutes.
The USA went to a 3-2 zone early in the second-quarter and slowly grinded Mali out with tight defense and relentless offensive rebounding to finally take a 37-36 lead, their first since leading 3-0. A late three-pointer, the USA first of the half, put the Americans ahead for good at with a 42-40 at half-time.
The USA opened the third-quarter with a 14-0 run, holding Mali scoreless for the first 3:00 minutes of the second-half and forcing Mali head coach Alhadji Dicko to call a time-out to restore orders as the lead swell to double-digits at 54-40.
Mali showed their resiliency and pride, fighting until the final whistle to close a game-high 20 point lead to single digits at 84-77 — on a made pull-up three pointer by Martin Diakite with 4:11 to go. The USA clamped down, allowing Mali just two points the rest of the way for the 14 win.
Undeclared point guard Cade Cunningham paced a loaded USA offense with 21 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists and had several highlight reel dunks. The 6’7″ Montverde Academy standout holds offers from Duke, Kentucky, Kansas, North Carolina, Virginia and a long-list of major suitors. Jalen Suggs added 15 points and 5 rebounds. Scott Barnes Jr. finished with 11 points and 8 rebounds and tournament MVP Reginald Perry also finished in double figures with 10 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals.
Mail had four players in double-figures led by continuous all-around talent of Hassan Drame with 17 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals and 4 assists. Karim Coulibaly (Pittsburgh Panthers) showed a nice soft touch around the rim with 17 points and 3 blocks. Gonzaga commit Oumar Ballo came-up short of fourth straight double-double and finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks.
Ballo, a sure-shot NBA prospect showcased multiple Point guard Siriman Kanoute capped off a stellar tournament with 16 points , 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
2019 FIBA U19 MVP & All-Stars
Joel Ayiyi – France
Oumar Ballo – Mali
Tyrese Haliburton – USA
Siriman Kanoute – Mali
Reginald Perry – USA
The USA had previously beaten Mali twice at the 2017 World Cup — 117-69 and 118-56, a 55-point margin of victory.
2019 FIBA U19 Final Standings