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U.S. men’s basketball team wins its closest game of FIBA World Cup, into quarterfinals

FIBA World Cup

USA’s Tyrese Haliburton (R) and Paolo Banchero react during the FIBA Basketball World Cup group J match between USA and Montenegro at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Metro Manila on September 1, 2023. (Photo by JAM STA ROSA / AFP) (Photo by JAM STA ROSA/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. men’s basketball team passed a test in its closest game of the FIBA World Cup so far, overcoming a second-half deficit to beat Montenegro 85-73 in Manila.

The U.S., now 4-0 and into the quarterfinals, trailed by three points early in the third quarter and had their fourth-quarter lead cut to four with three minutes left before pulling away.

Anthony Edwards led the way with 17 points (all in the second half) against a Montenegro team led by two-time NBA All-Star center Nikola Vučević, who scored 18 with 16 rebounds. Montenegro outrebounded the U.S. 49-31 but committed 22 turnovers to the U.S.’ 12.

The U.S. previously beat New Zealand (by 27 points), Greece (by 28) and Jordan (48).

FIBA WORLD CUP Schedule, Results

The U.S. clinched a quarterfinal spot later Friday when Lithuania beat Greece. The U.S. and Lithuania play Sunday with the top spot in the group at stake.

The U.S. will play the Dominican Republic, Italy, Puerto Rico or Serbia in Tuesday’s quarterfinals in the Philippines.

At the last men’s World Cup in 2019, the U.S. suffered the first of back-to-back losses in the quarterfinals (to France) and ultimately finished seventh, its worst major tournament result ever.

The U.S. rebounded to win a fourth consecutive Olympic title in Tokyo under head coach Gregg Popovich, who has since been succeeded by Steve Kerr.

The U.S. roster for this World Cup includes zero players with previous Olympic or World Cup experience.