Welcome to the 10th and final installment of the World University Games blog on UWBadgers.com. Thanks for following along as Wisconsin video coordinator Matt Ryan took us along on Team USA’s trip to Colorado Springs and Serbia. Matt, who is the Director of Basketball Operations for Team USA, has been bringing the inside perspective as only the son of Team USA head coach Bo Ryan can.
Blog #10: Tuesday, July 14th
We have all safely returned from Belgrade Serbia. The trip home was a long and tiring one but all flights were on time and everyone is back with a medal. The women beat Russia and won gold which was very exciting to see. The men, as you probably know, were not so fortunate.
The only match we lost in the tournament was on Russia’s last shot of the game in the semifinals which was also unfortunately their only lead of the entire game. The shot clock was running low and their lefty had to shot fake and had to take a tough, leaning 3-pointer that swished perfectly. We had 24 seconds to find a way to score, but after two offensive rebounds and three failed shot attempts, Russia had upset the Americans.
I won’t blame any game on the officials, as I will choose not to for this game. Yes the game was not called consistently, but I don’t think our guys were prepared to be 30 points better. We played like we were 10 or 20 points better and it cost us. We missed some big free throws in the 3rd quarter and when we took a 12-point lead in the second half we relaxed for a second and the Russians pulled themselves back. Cory Fisher (Villanova) hit a huge 3-pointer with a couple minutes left in the 4th quarter with a second or two left on the shot clock to put us up 9 and more than likely seal the game. However, one of the officials decided once the ball went in that it didn’t count and it was Russia’s ball. His final reason for giving Russia the ball and taking away our three points was due to an illegal screen. All four of our other players were not setting a screen and there was no contact with any Russian player. Shades of 1972 Olympics anyone? Probably not quite the same, but…
But, as I said before, our players knew what they were going into which meant you have to play your best every second of the game. I know we could have been up more than 6 at that point and our guys know the opportunity missed. They will learn from this experience, as we all did, to play your best and find a way to win; no matter what the situation. Our players were devastated in the locker room afterward and hearing Russia celebrate next door didn’t make the loss any easier. If they didn’t know what a gold medal meant heading into the World University Games, they do now. That loss hurt more than any I can remember.
Russia played with unbelievable passion and I commend them for their hard play and their well deserved silver medal.
Coach Ryan gave a great talk after the game as well as the next day at our final film session. He stressed what it means to always have character and always represent yourself, your school and your country to the best of your ability. Our players could have been sour and blamed the officials for our loss but they didn’t. From what I overheard, they were upset with themselves for the overall effort and lack of team play. Certain aspects we had been doing well on defense seemed to disappear at times against the Russians. There are a lot of what ifs and should ofs and could ofs which was why getting ready for Isreal and a bronze medal the next night was so tough. Coach Ryan also explained to the team before film that Israel had just beaten Russia in an earlier round by about 25 points. This was no time to feel sorry for one another, it was time to prepare for Israel and bring home a medal for our country.
Israel played their hearts out. We allowed too many easy baskets in the 3rd quarter and Israel gave us all we could handle. In the end however, it was apparent the woogies were not going to let another one get away. Different guys stepped up in big situations down the stretch and we finished out our last game together winning by 11. Final score: 91-80.
We were proud of what we accomplished; bitter sweet in the end but losing our only game to a very good Russian team by one while allowing our opponents to shoot 20% from the 3-point line (Russia shot just 27% from the floor and somehow found a way to beat us) at the World University games was a great accomplishment. No matter what a sports writer from America will tell you, we were not favored to win this thing. But I do know we wanted a shot to prove we could beat the home team for the gold. I hope the coaches and players all get a chance somewhere down the road to play for gold again.
I’m gonna miss everybody from the trip and I look forward to seeing Lazar Hayward, Talor Battle, Evan Turner, Robbie Hummel and maybe some others next season from the sidelines. I think all of the players will benefit significantly from this experience both on and off the court which may come back to haunt the Badgers. I hope they all have career games against us… just as long as we win. I told Coach Ryan he shouldn’t coach those four guys too well, but then again he knows their tendencies now better than ever so there will be a few chess matches next year. I’m looking forward to it.
It’s been a real pleasure blogging for you all. I have not received one bit of positive feedback and I have been told by many to never blog again. I was voted worst blogger of the year by Blogweek magazine and in an article about me they recommended any reader of mine to stab themselves in the eye with a sharp wooden stick for a much more pleasurable experience. I mean come on!!! No but really, I have enjoyed this experience and if I have enough requests I’ll maybe blog some during the season (email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re crazy enough to want more from me during the season). Hawaii should be especially good because like Rodney Dangerfield said to end Caddyshack… “Hey everybody… we’re all gonna get lei’d!”
Random Thoughts and Events:
1.) After being pummeled with boo’s during the award ceremony, one of our security escorts came up to me and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t hate American people, just American politicians.” Glad that was cleared up. For all the Serbs who hated me, I’ll chalk it up to former presidents. And all this time…
2.) The cheerleaders for our final game were wearing some interesting outfits. They looked like they could have been waitresses at a certain wing restaurant that is known more for their employees than their wings. I thought for a second the cheerleaders were coming in after the evening shift of waiting tables that night.
3.) After our loss to Russia, the three referees from our game came out to a standing ovation. They got a much bigger applause than the Russians did for winning the game. The referees even found time to shake every fan’s hand and take pictures. That’s gonna leave a mark.
4.) In the end, for those keeping score at home… I managed a bunt single to break up the female gender’s perfect game against me. It was late in the 8th inning and the scoring officials waited awhile before it was ruled a hit. (it was a European-style goodbye peck on the cheek)
Good way to end blog 10. Later peeps, and thanks for reading.