Puerto Rico spoiled South Sudan’s World Cup debut with a comeback win

2023-08-26T12:20:39+00:00 2023-08-26T14:32:02+00:00.

Cesare Milanti

26/Aug/23 12:20


The 2023 FIBA World Cup Cinderella team lost to Puerto Rico in overtime

By Cesare Milanti / info@eurohoops.net

MANILA, Philippines – After trailing for the vast majority of the game against South Sudan, Puerto Rico found a huge comeback in the fourth quarter, having first the possibility to get the job done in regulation, and eventually winning 101-96 in OT their opening in Group B. The African team was about to celebrate its first-ever game at the FIBA World Cup with a victory.

Tremont Waters kept the Caribbean team afloat with 19 points, 10 assists, and 4/9 from downtown, and helped his team get back to victory, making things difficult for South Sudan ahead of the last games of the Group Phase. Stephen Thompson (21 p, 13 r) and George Conditt (18 p, 11 r) got double-doubles in the win. Ismael Romero added 16 points and 12 rebounds.

“I apologize to my teammates for the high turnover game. Overall, my teammates played a great game: everyone. It means a lot”, Tremont Waters said. “I feel proud of my team. Everybody fought together for the same purpose, we played a tough game against a great team. It’s tough when you give all the chances to other team”, coach Nelson Colon said.

The Carlik Jones-Wenyen Gabriel duo was unstoppable in P&R situations by Puerto Rico, hammering down alley-oops more than once, and straight from the very beginning of the encounter. The Chicago Bulls‘ playmaker ended with a massive double-double of 38 points and 11 assists – including the deep three-pointer to tie at 81-81 -, while the former Los Angeles Lakers athletic forward added 15 points with 7/10 from the field.

“It was a very emotional game. My guys competed, they played hard. This is a learning experience. Our fans were great, I pumped our fans up and we were forced into OT. That was a crazy episode, like I said the game was up and down. We’re a young team, there’s no moral victory for us. We can’t be happy, we have to get better. At the end of the day, it’s all about composure. We can’t feel sorry for ourselves, we have to pick up the pieces to keep our dream living”, coach Royal Ivey said in the post-game press conference.

With a 9-2 run at the end of the fourth quarter, Nelson Colon’s team seemed to come back into contention, but Tremont Waters went 1/2 from the line with 1:49 left and missed a layup later on to get the lead. However, thanks to Stephen Thompson’s steal and Ismael Romero’s dunk with 00:16 seconds left, Puerto Rico eventually found the winning lead.

Later on, Nuni Omot committed a five-second violation, almost losing the chance to really get back into contention. Carlik Jones tied the game at 81-81, but South Sudan committed a last foul on Ismael Romero, who missed both free throws sending the game to overtime. Once there, Puerto Rico demonstrated its bigger spread talent, ending the game on a positive note.

The African team coached by Royal Ivey imposed its rhythm from the very first minute, as the lead changed only two times. Both teams scored a lot inside the paint (South Sudan’s 44 vs. Puerto Rico’s 46). This won’t be the only Group B clash of the day, as Serbia will face its former head coach Sasha Djordjevic’s China at 14:00 CET, once again in the Smart Araneta Coliseum.


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