The United States U19 men’s basketball team defeated Mali 93-79 in the World Cup final on Sunday to capture the gold medal for a record-setting seventh time since the event’s inception. The blowout capped a dominant run in World Cup play for coach Bruce Weber’s squad, which secured double-digit victories in all seven contests.
Mali looked primed to end the Americans’ dominance by jumping out to an early lead Sunday. They led 22-20 at the end of the first quarter by pushing the pace and out-gunning the Americans at their own game. But by halftime, the U.S. had captured a 42-40 lead. The game would not get closer from there; they came out hot in the third quarter and did not relent down the stretch.
Mali made things interesting late in the game with a fourth-quarter push, but the U.S. turned to five-star prospects Cade Cunningham and Scottie Barnes to steady them as the game became turbulent. Cunningham scored 21 points and had seven assists and seven rebounds, while Barnes added 11 points and eight rebounds. Iowa State sophomore Tyrese Haliburton added six points and eight assists to the effort, and off the bench, fellow Big 12 star Isaac Likekele, of Oklahoma State, contributed with a team-high 10 rebounds to go with nine points.
While Mali came up short of a gold medal, its success as an underdog cannot be understated. They finished 5-2 in World Cup play and became the first African nation to secure a medal on the U19 World Cup stage.
USA’s U19 gold marks what shaped up to be a spectacular day for Americans in sporting events. Earlier in the day, the U.S. women’s national team repeated as World Cup champions by2-0.