SAITAMA — It was all about defense for the United States on Sunday.
Team USA showed great defensive ability in its 113-73 rout of Australia in the eighth finals of the FIBA World Championship at Saitama Super Arena.
Balancing offense with defense, four U.S. players scored in double figures — Carmelo Anthony with 20 points, Joe Johnson with 18, Dwyane Wade with 15 and Shane Battier with 12.
“We’re very excited to play before the crowds of Saitama,” Battier said. “It reminds of me an NBA arena.”
The first quarter was a close contest. Battier, who started at forward, quickly drained two 3-pointers to lead the team early.
But Australia hung in there as center Andrew Bogut showed determination by scoring nine points, including a spectacular drive-in layup after bypassing a U.S. defender with a behind-the-back dribble from the perimeter.
Brad Newly followed Bogut by making two 3-pointers. Team USA led 27-23 at the end of the quarter.
But Australia got into a trouble soon when the Americans started putting more pressure on defense in the second quarter.
The Aussies couldn’t find open space to take shots. They failed to make a field goal for 7 minutes and 10 seconds into the quarter and made only two buckets in the period, scoring just six points.
“Obviously, we put a lot of pressure defensively in the second quarter, and it was a key,” Battier said.
The U.S. picked up the pace while Australia struggled. Johnson, who did not scored in the first quarter, knocked down two 3s and tallied 12 points, and Anthony aggressively attacked the rim and scored 13 in the second quarter.
The U.S. expanded its lead to 30 points and ended the half up 59-29.
Australia recovered from its nightmarish second quarter after halftime and started making shots, but the Americans’ offensive surge kept going. The U.S. stretched its lead to 39 points by the end of the period.
Australia never had a chance to cut the gap in the final quarter.
Battier, who went 4-for-5 from the 3-point line, had his best game in the tournament as he played lively on both side of ball.
“I’ve got confidence in my shooting ability,” Battier said with a smile. “But my role on this team is to play hard and be a good team guy.”
The Team USA will take on Germany in the quarterfinals at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.