Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

U.S. stunned by Lithuania at FIBA World Cup, still advances, qualifies for Olympics

FIBA World Cup USA

Lithuanian players (R) celebrate their win against the US during the FIBA Basketball World Cup second round match between US and Lithuania at the Mall of Asia arena in Pasay city, suburban Manila on September 3, 2023. (Photo by Ted ALJIBE / AFP) (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. men’s basketball team lost to longtime European power Lithuania at the FIBA World Cup but still advanced to the quarterfinals and qualified for the Olympics with a 4-1 record.

Lithuania, led by NBA veteran Jonas Valanciunas but without All-NBA 7-footer Domantas Sabonis, thwarted the U.S. 110-104 in Manila on Sunday to take the top spot in the group.

Both teams had already clinched quarterfinal spots last week, making this group-stage finale purely for seeding purposes. The U.S. qualified for the Olympics as one of the top two teams from the Americas at the World Cup.

“It doesn’t ease the pain of the loss that we had tonight for us, but for USA Basketball, it’s a good thing,” to qualify for Paris, U.S. head coach Steve Kerr said. “To be honest, I’m not worried about the Olympics. I’m worried about this. We want to win the World Cup.”

FIBA WORLD CUP: Schedule, Results

The U.S., second in the group, gets another group winner, Italy, in Tuesday’s quarterfinals.

Lithuania raced out to a 31-12 lead after the first quarter, two days after Montenegro played the U.S. close before the Americans pulled away to win by 12.

“I didn’t feel like we let down,” Kerr said. “They just punched us in the mouth. Right away, they made every shot. They executed. I don’t think it was a case of us not being ready. I think it was a case of them playing a perfect first quarter and us understanding how hard we’re going to have to play.”

Lithuania outrebounded the U.S. 43-27 and made 14 of 25 three-point shots, overcoming Anthony Edwards’ game-high 35 points.

“I hate losing,” Kerr said. “I probably won’t sleep much tonight, but for us to get better, we needed to feel this. We needed to respond the way we did. Next game, we have to start the way we did the second half. We can’t ease into the game at all.”

The U.S. has now lost at least one game at three consecutive global tournaments after two defeats at the 2019 World Cup (en route to a program-worst seventh-place finish) and a group-stage defeat at the Tokyo Olympics (en route to a fourth consecutive gold).

Before that, the U.S. went undefeated to Olympic or world titles in 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016.

The U.S. roster for this World Cup includes zero players with previous Olympic or World Cup experience and none who made an All-NBA team.

Lithuania made the quarterfinals of seven consecutive Olympics from 1992 through 2016 (with bronze medals in 1992, 1996 and 2000) then did not qualify for the Tokyo Games.