BARRANQUILLA, Colombia — USA Basketball is on the verge of qualifying for next year’s World Cup.
John Jenkins scored 26 points and the USA defeated Colombia 95-77 on Monday night in a second-round qualifier. The win put the Americans in position to earn a spot at the World Cup — to be held next year in the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia — when the next window of games takes place in mid-November.
Langston Galloway and DaQuan Jeffries each scored 14 points for the USA, which gave up the game’s opening basket, then scored the next 12 points and never trailed.
“To come away with this win is a big time for us,” Jenkins said. “We are very excited.”
Jenkins was excellent in this two-game window for the USA, including the Americans’ 105-71 victory over Uruguay on Thursday in Las Vegas. His numbers in those games: 48 points on 17-for-25 shooting — a staggering 14-for-21 from 3-point range.
He was 8 of 14 from beyond the arc on Monday, the last three of those 3s coming in the final minutes of the fourth as the USA pulled away.
“His leadership has been a big part of this,” USA coach Jim Boylen said. “He loves playing on the road. He loves playing in hostile places. And he’s in great shape. He came in great shape. He believes in USA Basketball. He believes in what we’re doing. He’s elite in following a game plan and he’s a veteran player who loves wearing that USA uniform.”
It would take nothing short of a complete collapse for the USA to fail to qualify for the World Cup. The Americans are in a six-team group in this round of qualifying, and the top three teams in the group are guaranteed spots in next year’s 32-team field.
The USA is 7-1, two games ahead of Brazil, Mexico and Uruguay (all 5-3) in Group F. Puerto Rico is 4-4 and Colombia 3-5. There are only four qualifying matches left for each team.
A pair of blowouts late in the quarter proved decisive for the US
The Americans outscored Colombia 8-2 in the final minute of the second quarter, turning a seven-point lead into a 45-32 halftime lead. And in the third, a 14-6 run to end the period gave the USA a 70-50 lead heading into the game’s final 10 minutes.
“We just kept going, kept battling, kept making plays and the shots started falling,” Jenkins said.
USA: The USA trailed for 2:22 of a possible 80 minutes in two games during this qualifying window, the other being Thursday’s 105-71 win over Uruguay in Las Vegas. … The Americans have won their last six qualifying games, doing so by an average of 20.3 points. … Eric Mika finished with seven points and a team-high nine rebounds.
Colombia: Brian Angola had a team-high 18 points. … The hosts were outscored 51-12 from 3 points.
In other Group F qualifiers on Monday, Mexico topped Brazil 82-72 and Uruguay beat Puerto Rico 78-70.
In Group E — the other six-team group in the FIBA Americas regional qualifiers — Canada remains in control. The Canadiens rolled past Panama 106-50 on Monday night. Venezuela defeated the Dominican Republic 76-72 and Argentina held off the Bahamas 95-77.
Canada is 8-0, Venezuela is 7-1 and Argentina is 6-2, meaning those nations have the inside track to the top three spots in that group and a spot in the World Cup. The Dominican Republic is now 5-3, and Panama and the Bahamas are both 2-6.
UPDATE IN THE FIELD
Aside from the Philippines and Japan, which qualified as host countries, several spots in the 32-team World Cup field have been filled in recent days. FIBA, basketball’s governing body, said Finland, Lebanon, Ivory Coast and New Zealand are also officially in next year’s tournament.
USA: Host Brazil Nov. 11, site TBA.
Colombia: Face Puerto Rico on November 11.