USA Basketball clinches berth in World Cup, tops Uruguay

USA Basketball is heading to this summer’s FIBA World Cup.

The Americans clinched their berth in the 32-team field on Thursday night, rallying for an 88-77 win at Uruguay. The U.S. secured one of the seven World Cup berths allocated to the FIBA Americas region.

Langston Galloway, who played in more qualifying games than any U.S. player in this cycle, took over down the stretch. He scored 11 consecutive fourth-quarter points for the Americans — part of that being a personal 8-0 run that included a four-point play — to help clinch the game, and the World Cup spot.

“Couldn’t be more proud about the group of guys that we have here,” Galloway said. “Just thankful for the opportunity. I’m getting to play and represent with the United States across my chest, and all the guys who have been part of this journey with me. ... We accomplished the task at hand, which was qualifying for the World Cup.”

Galloway scored 21 points for the U.S., which plays its qualifying finale at Brazil on Sunday. The Americans will be in Manila for the entirety of the World Cup; other games will be played in Indonesia and Japan, but FIBA already decided the U.S. would stay in the Philippines for the tournament.

For the Americans, clinching capped a 15-month process — spanning 11 games, with six different rosters and utilizing 52 different players. It’s virtually certain that none of those players will be in the Philippines with the Americans this summer for the World Cup; G League or international-based players were primarily used in qualifying, but a roster of NBA players will be put together for the tournament.

The coaching staff will be different as well; Jim Boylen has led the Americans in all six of the two-game qualifying windows, but USA Basketball national team coach Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors — assisted by Erik Spoelstra of the Miami Heat, Tyronn Lue of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mark Few of Gonzaga — will lead the team this summer.

“I would like to just thank the seven assistant coaches we’ve had, I’d like to thank the 52 players that played for us,” Boylen said. “We had high-character, hard-working guys. They bought into our system, how we need to play. Our guys bought in and we’re just really thankful.”

The U.S. has won the World Cup, previously called the world championships, five times. But the team sent to the most recent World Cup at China in 2019 finished seventh — the worst finish ever by an American men’s team in a major tournament. The previous worst was sixth at the 2002 world championships.

The Americans bounced back at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, winning gold for the fourth consecutive time. And now the next U.S. team — the roster is unclear — will be tasked with bringing home gold from Manila.

Uruguay took control early, leading 18-7 after the first quarter and building a 41-27 lead with about a minute to go in the first half.

But the U.S. offense came alive in the third, scoring 30 points in that 10-minute period — one more than the Americans managed in the first two quarters combined. It was 59-58 U.S. going into the fourth, and then Galloway and the Americans ran away.

Canada had already secured a spot from the FIBA Americas region. That leaves a wild final day of qualifying to come Sunday, with six teams — Argentina, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico and Brazil — set to decide five spots.

THURSDAY’S AMERICAS REGION GAMES

PUERTO RICO 92, BRAZIL 90

At Brazil, Tremont Waters’ 15-foot jumper at the buzzer gave Puerto Rico a huge win in a game with 17 lead changes.

Christopher Ortiz scored 21 points for Puerto Rico, while Ismael Romero had 18 and Gian Clavell added 16. Leonardo Meindl led Brazil with 18 points.

Brazil would have clinched a berth with a win, though it remains very much alive going into the final weekend of qualifying.

ARGENTINA 83, CANADA 72

Facu Campazzo had 13 points and 11 assists, as Argentina handed Canada its first loss in 11 qualifying games.

Argentina is 8-3, tied with Venezuela and the Dominican Republic for second place in Group E.

VENEZUELA 115, BAHAMAS 70

David Cubillan and Jose Materan each scored 16 points, and Venezuela made 17 3-pointers.

Ahmad Pratt and Domnick Bridgewater each had 16 for the Bahamas.

DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 93, PANAMA 67

Jean Montero scored 17 points for Dominican Republic, which helped its chances of qualifying.

MEXICO 113, COLOMBIA 54

Orlando Mendez scored 20 points for Mexico, which is in a three-way tie with Brazil and Puerto Rico in Group F with 7-4 records.

Reynolds is an Associated Press sports writer, based in South Florida.