Credit: FIBA Media
Credit FIBA Media

The Mexican national team (2-0) made a spectacular comeback in the third quarter to defeat the United States (1-1) 97-88 (21-28, 27-29, 31-12, 18-19) on Monday and finish unbeaten in the first window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Americas qualifiers.

In Chihuahua, northern Mexico, the team of coach Omar Quintero was 9 points down at the half-time break but ran their opponents over by 31-12 in the third quarter, thus securing victory.

For Mexico, Orlando Mendez scored 27 points, and Gabriel Giron added 19. Daniel Amigo and Paul Stoll each scored 18 points for the hosts, which moved into the top spot in Group D of the Americas Region qualifying and essentially is already assured of a spot in the second round.

Spearheaded once again by Isaiah Thomas, the United States imposed their physical game at the beginning, with good transition and great speed. The former NBA All-Star guard had 13 points and nine assists in the game's final stretch but couldn't turn the situation around. He got to score 21 points and dish 10 assists overall.

Paul Stoll and Orlando Mendez powered the Mexicans at the start of the second half as their team started to steal balls, forcing the Americans to several turnovers.

Team USA tried to bounce back, scoring seven points in less than 80 seconds, coming within six (73-79) and even four points (86-90) with less than two minutes remaining.

However, Daniel Amigo made a basket, and after a steal from Gabriel Giron, the hosts had only to play their cards right, which they did. Mexico finished the game with 33 assists for just 5 turnovers, plus 17/35 from downtown. Team USA's respective numbers were 21:14 and 7/21.

"It's very disappointing," U.S. coach Jim Boylen said. "We had a great group of guys. We practiced hard. We had all high-character guys, and it hurts. It hurts to lose. It hurts to lose any time, but this situation — playing for your country, on the road, playing the home team — of course, we wanted to win, and we wanted to play better."

BJ Johnson scored 15 points for the Americans, while Luke Kornet and Shaquille Harrison finished with 12.

The loss for Team USA, whose players were together for about 10 days to get ready for these two games, wasn't unprecedented. The U.S. is using a roster primarily of G League players for the World Cup qualifiers, just as it did while qualifying for the 2019 World Cup. The Americans went 10-2 in the qualifying games for that tournament, easily good enough to get the U.S. into the 32-team field.

There are four teams in four groups of qualifying out of the FIBA Americas region. The top three teams in each group move onto the second round of qualifying, which starts in August and runs through February 2023.

The U.S. is in Group D with Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The Americans play again in February against Puerto Rico and Mexico, then close the first round of qualifying against Puerto Rico on July 1 and Cuba on July 4.

For the February games, the U.S. roster will almost certainly change based on player availability.

Mexico: Orlando Mendez 27 (9/14 FG, 7/11 3PT SHOTS, 2/2 FT, 2 REB, 6 AST), Gabriel Giron 19 (7/17 FG, 9 AST), Paul Stoll 18 (5/13 FG, 5 REB, 11 AST), Daniel Amigo 18 (8/14 FG).

USA: Isaiah Thomas 21 (7/11 FG, 4/4 FT, 10 AST, 6 TO), BJ Johnson 15 (6/11 FG, 5 REB), Luke Kornet 12 (7 REB), Shaquille Harrison 12 (5 REB).

Full game highlights:

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