World University Games Blog #9

World University Games Blog #9

Matt Ryan (Wisconsin Men's Basketball)

Welcome to the ninth installment of the World University Games blog on UWBadgers.com. Follow along as Wisconsin video coordinator Matt Ryan takes us along on Team USA’s trip to Colorado Springs and Serbia. Matt, who is the Director of Basketball Operations for Team USA, will bring the inside perspective as only the son of Team USA head coach Bo Ryan can. Check back regularly for more updates from the World University Games.

Blog #9: Friday, July 10, 2009

By the time you read this we will already be underway during our semifinal game vs. Russia, but let’s try to do a quick catch up.

We stepped things up vs. Serbia the second time around, winning 68-66. Without Belgrade officials in the second match, victory seemed a bit more feasible. I’m almost positive these referees decided at halftime they were just going to let both teams play because Serbia shot a mere three free throws while we shot zero… until Serbia had to foul when we gained possession up one with a little over 10 seconds remaining in the game.

We missed two free throws, got an offensive rebound, missed another pair getting another offensive rebound and then finally Cory Fisher hit one out of two putting us up a two. (Trevor Booker was our MVP of the game getting those rebounds and with his physical play on their overpowering big man) With about 7 or 8 seconds left, Serbia came down and settled for a 3-pointer going for the win. It was a miss and a Serbian player got a hand on the rebound but was nowhere near the basket with his tip in attempt. The buzzer sounded and the boo’s from the crowd rang out louder than ever.

There were approximately 14 or 15 thousand people there, only about 40 U.S. fans, but our athletes made themselves heard. They all stood under the basket, which was Serbia’s basket in the second half, and cheered the whole game. One of our women’s players flashed the Serbs on their free throws lifting her shirt up to her head… she had a sports bra on Brandi Chastain style. Too bad they only shot three. The best part of that story is she was on the front page of the Serbian newspaper the next day. Darn Americans with their risqué behavior and loud rock-n-roll music.

What I don’t understand is why go for the win at home when we were facing one of the most hostile crowds our players had ever witnessed? It was so loud at the end when we were shooting free throws that our two point guards and best shooter missed five straight at the line. I had never seen that before.  

I figured a Serbian player would try to get to the rim considering that’s how they played all game. Almost all of their shots were taken in the paint and if they weren’t, their shots were 3’s with the ball first touching the post or driving into the lane followed by a kick out. I feel there is barely a mid-range game with the teams we have played which is smart because that’s what teams want to force defensively… tough two-point jumpers. Well, we’re glad they went for the win and settled for a contested 3 without touching the post at the end because we came out on the left hand side.

Belgrade Arena is just like an NBA arena and the fans are about as loud as I’ve heard. The game and atmosphere was about as good as I have been a part of. Comparable would be at Indiana when they beat Wisconsin and stormed the court 3 years ago. As I mentioned before, I attended game 2 of the NBA Finals this year in L.A. and the Lakers crowd was truly a disappointment in comparison to the Serbian fans Tuesday night.

Last night we faced Bulgaria, who struggled shooting as most teams have against us. Throughout the tournament, teams have shot a combined 20% from beyond the 3-point line vs. the U.S.; not by accident. We go over every screen on the perimeter as we do at Wisconsin unless the player coming off the screen is so far out or simply not a 3-point shooting threat. Against these teams, that is usually not the case. Our guys are really starting to figure some things out on the defensive end which continues to encourage our staff because we know these guys are learning every day. We have improved so much over these past couple of weeks and the chemistry of the team has risen to a new level.

We want gold more than anything in the world right now but tonight, we must focus on the Russians who we squeaked by in the third friendly game when we first arrived in Serbia. We should be facing Israel tonight since we were the overall #1 seed, but somehow the Serbs changed the brackets, magically became the 1 seed and placed themselves in what they think is the easiest path to gold. (The Russians lost on a last second tip-in to Serbia in overtime of their only, and hopefully last, matchup) We are also the away team tonight and for the final game. Go figure. We wouldn’t want it any other way, and our players and staff accept the challenge.

Random Thoughts and Events:
1.) Jenny and Caroline, our two female staff members, and I decided to hit up a dance club the other night after a nice meal with the rest of our staff. The three of us walked not even a block when we ran into four guys in their 20’s from Serbia. One of them spoke English well because he attended high school in Michigan for a year. They asked us what we were up to and we told them we wanted to get our dancing shoes on.

We proceeded to walk a couple of miles to a giant raft on the man-made river here which Dan had told us about the first day we arrived. On our way crossing one of the 3 bridges in Belgrade, one of the 4 gentlemen decided he wanted to show us his Michael Jackson Billy Jean dance in honor of him. Jenny and Caroline explained that I had already performed this dance for everybody in Real World Serbia and that we should have a dance off. He made me go first and I think he soon realized his late night hopes and dreams of beating me in a dance off were shattered. (I’ve been to a lot of wedding receptions) He still performed with all his heart but in the end I was voted the victor. We filmed it on our mini cameras and everyone got a good laugh out of it the next day. It was rap and hip-hop night at the club and we danced the night away. Serbian people know how to have a good time.

2.) I was walking on a train track with Dan near our village late one night and I got a thought in my head that there actually may be trains still running on these things. You wouldn’t think it because of the location and condition these tracks are in, plus I had not seen a train yet in the two weeks prior. As the thought went through my head, I felt the tracks vibrate and I had a flashback to the movie “Stand By Me” when the 4 kids had to sprint to the end of the bridge in order to avoid death. Dan then says, “Matt, you may want to get off the tracks.” I look behind me and a train is fast approaching, apparently the trains here don’t make much noise because I had less than five seconds before it would have hit me. Then I realized there was a fence on the side I jumped off less than a few feet away. Right before the front of the train got to me, I knew I had to put my entire body up against the fence in order to assure my safety. I had maybe a couple inches to spare. A close call to say the least but I got to blog about it. I have never been accused of being the smartest person in the world.

3.) Before the dance club Wednesday night, we ran into a gentleman who knew Coach Ryan and he sat down for a couple of beverages. This guy was hilarious and told stories about playing professionally and all the brawls he had seen in Serbia between the local teams. His best story was when a coach became so upset with a referee during a game that he called a timeout to set up a Box-and-one defense on a particular official. His team was down enough points in the second half to where he knew they had no chance of coming back. That’s right; his team actually played a set defense on an official. I want that game on DVD for my collection.

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