SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Justin Jackson scored 26 points, Langston Galloway added 18 and the US men’s basketball team took another step toward qualifying for next year’s World Cup by beating Puerto Rico 83-75 on Friday night .
John Jenkins scored 13 goals for the Americans, who improved to 4-1 in World Cup qualifiers from the FIBA Americas region.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ Jose Alvarado scored 20 for Puerto Rico (2-3) while Gian Clavell scored 17. Ismael Romero added 15 for Puerto Rico.
“It was just that we have the respect for them and the physicality of FIBA basketball and just be prepared for that,” Jackson said.
The USA conclude the first-round qualifier on Monday in Cuba. The Americans have already secured a place in the second round, as has Puerto Rico.
“We have a strong group that came to work,” said US coach Jim Boylen. “And they took great pride in everything they did. I am really grateful for that.”
Jordan Bell sent the USA into halftime with a 42-37 lead by throwing in a 3-pointer that just rolled over the buzzer, then spoke words for the Puerto Rico crowd as he left the floor at the break.
That seemed to cheer the Americans, who blew away in the third quarter.
Galloway hit consecutive 3s early in the quarter for a nine-point lead, and then Jackson took over. He scored nine straight US points, ending when Cook connected with a deep 3-pointer from the left wing at 2:49 for a 63-46 lead.
Puerto Rico pulled away, but the Americans still led by 15 points into the final quarter after another beat-the-clock result — Eric Mika’s tip-in after timed out in the third for a 66-51 advantage.
The Americans held the lead until the end. Alvarado made a 3-pointer with 14 seconds left to put Puerto Rico within 81-75, but the result was already decided.
“Regardless of the result, this is a special moment in my life, for my family and the boys who wear the jersey with me,” Alvarado said. “We create memories, we grow together and we have a country on our side. We will be represented as well as possible. I know we didn’t win today, but this is the beginning of a great start.”
Records from the first round will carry over to the second round, which consists of six more games starting in August. Only Canada (5-0) and Brazil (5-0), who play in other first-round groups, have better records than the USA
In the Americas region, 12 teams will advance to the second round of qualifiers, seven of which will take part in the World Cup – the main qualifier for the Paris 2024 Olympics.
CANADA 95, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 75
In Hamilton, Ontario, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 15 of his 32 points in the third quarter to lead Canada to an easy win.
Kelly Olynyk scored 17 points and grabbed 11 rebounds for Canada. Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Gilgeous-Alexander’s cousin, also had 17 points.
Victor Liz scored 12 points for the Dominican Republic.