Mikal Bridges leads United States past Italy to reach FIBA World Cup semis

Sep 5, 2023, 7:44 AM

MIkal Bridges vs. Italy for USA Basketball in the FIBA World Basketball Cup quarterfinals...

U.S. forward Mikal Bridges (5) gestures during the Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game between Italy and U.S. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Saturday, Aug. 31, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

(AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The United States is headed to the medal round of the Basketball World Cup, bouncing back from its first loss of the tournament in emphatic fashion.

Mikal Bridges scored 14 of his 24 points in the first half, Tyrese Haliburton added 18 and the U.S. was airtight for long stretches defensively on the way to easily beating Italy 100-63 on Tuesday night in the quarterfinals of the World Cup.

The win ensures the 15th top-four finish for the Americans (5-1) in 19 World Cups. They will play either Germany (5-0) or Latvia (4-1) in Friday’s semifinals; those two teams play their quarterfinal game in Manila on Wednesday.

It was 46-24 USA by halftime, with Austin Reaves providing the exclamation point with a follow-slam that had teammates out of their seats. The margin was that big despite Anthony Edwards — the team’s leading scorer entering Tuesday, averaging just over 20 points in the first five games of the World Cup — not even getting on the scoresheet until the first possession of the third quarter.

His heroics weren’t needed. Not much on the offensive end was. The defense — which was shredded for 110 points in a six-point loss to Lithuania on Sunday — held Italy to 6 of 31 shooting over the final 15 minutes of the first half. Lithuania started 9 for 9 from 3-point range vs. the U.S.; Italy started 2 for 21 on Tuesday.

Simone Fontecchio led Italy (4-2) with 18 points.

It was the quarterfinal round where it all went wrong for the U.S. at the World Cup four years ago in China. A loss to France in the Round of 8 eliminated the Americans from medal contention and started a free-fall all the way to seventh place, the worst finish ever by a U.S. team in a major men’s international event.

That won’t happen this time. Win Friday, and the U.S. is assured of a medal. Win Friday and Sunday, and the Americans will be flying home with gold.

Italy had beaten the U.S. only twice in 14 previous tries at the senior men’s national level, both times at the world championships — which FIBA now calls the World Cup. The first was in 1970 on the way to a fifth-place finish for the U.S. The second was in 1978, in Manila no less, a defeat that helped relegate the Americans to a fifth-place finish that year as well.

The Italians hung around, for a few minutes. The U.S. didn’t get into an early hole — as has been the case multiple times in this World Cup — but the lead was only 10-8 when the Americans went to the second unit, which has been a strength all summer.

And it was again. It was 24-14 after one, the lead was out to 22 by the half and the countdown to Friday was soon on.


USA: The Americans were 16.5-point favorites at game time, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. … Starting center Jaren Jackson Jr., who picked up two fouls in the first 2:50 of Sunday’s loss to Lithuania, got called for two in the first 2:14 on Tuesday. … NBA superfan Jimmy Goldstein, a fixture courtside at big games in arenas all over the U.S., was in attendance.

Italy: Fontecchio (Utah) is the only current NBA player on Italy’s roster. Nicolo Melli and Luigi Datome have past NBA experience. … Guaranteed no worse than eighth place, this will be Italy’s best World Cup showing since finishing sixth in 1998.


USA: Face Germany or Latvia in semifinals Friday.

Italy: Face Germany or Latvia in consolation playoffs Thursday.

Phoenix Suns

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts against the Atlanta Hawks during the first quarter at ...

Dan Bickley

Deande Ayton’s lack of playoff moxie is no longer the Suns’ problem

The Suns polished off their championship roster on Wednesday by getting rid of Deandre Ayton and adding depth to the roster.

3 hours ago

Deandre Ayton guards Damian Lillard...

Arizona Sports

Reactions flood in following trade involving Damian Lillard, Deandre Ayton

The NBA world quickly caught fire with the news of a three-team trade centered around Damian Lillard and Deandre Ayton.

6 hours ago

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns during Game Four of the NBA Western Conference Semifinals at ...

Arizona Sports

Watch: Arizona Sports reacts to Deandre Ayton trade to Blazers as part of Damian Lillard deal

Empire of the Suns' Kellan Olson and Kevin Zimmerman join Arizona Sports' Wolf & Luke to react to the deal one week out from training camp.

7 hours ago

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns looks on during the first quarter against the Portland Trail ...

Kellan Olson

Phoenix Suns sell low on Deandre Ayton, bet on addition by subtraction

The Deandre Ayton trade will provide some clear black and white into how his tenure with the Phoenix Suns unfolded.

7 hours ago

Deandre Ayton #22 of the Phoenix Suns reacts after being called for a foul against the Miami Heat d...

Kellan Olson

Report: Deandre Ayton traded by Suns to Blazers as part of Damian Lillard deal

The Phoenix Suns traded Deandre Ayton to the Portland Trail Blazers in a deal involving Damian Lillard to the Milwaukee Bucks.

8 hours ago

Keita Bates-Diop #31 of the San Antonio Spurs shoots against the Washington Wizards during the firs...

Kellan Olson

The if of the 5th: Keita Bates-Diop is Phoenix Suns’ frontrunner

The Phoenix Suns have several candidates to be the fifth starter and forward Keita Bates-Diop is perhaps the top option.

1 day ago

Mikal Bridges leads United States past Italy to reach FIBA World Cup semis