John Calipari will not be bringing home a gold medal in his first experience as a coach for USA Basketball.
Calipari’s United States U19 team was upset by Canada, 99-87, in the semifinals of the FIBA U19 World Cup in Cairo, Egypt, on Saturday, and R.J. Barrett was a key reason.
Barrett, ranked as the No. 1 sophomore recruit and a star at Montverde Academy (Fla.), totaled a tournament-high 38 points to go with 13 rebounds and five assists before fouling out late in the win. He hit 12 of 24 of field-goal attempts and 2 of 6 on three-pointers.
Barrett entered the game ranked second in the tournament in scoring (19 points per game). There is a chance Barrett will reclassify to the 2018 class, but regardless of when he plays in college, he is believed to be one of Calipari’s top recruiting targets.
“R.J. had it going,” Calipari said. “I told the team after the game, I needed to try some different things – go zone, trap pick and roll, trap him. I kind of rode it because I thought we would figure out something, and that is my mistake.
“But, the reality was, one kid really went crazy, and then the rest of their kids did what they did, so hats off to them. Congratulate Canada, they deserved to win the game.”
The 17-year-old Barrett exceeded his tournament average in the first half with 25 points on 7-of-16 shooting as Canada carried a 45-42 lead into intermission. He also grabbed eight rebounds in the first half and hit three free throws with four seconds left in the second quarter to give Canada a lead. Barrett tied his previous tournament high with a thundering dunk on the first possession of the third quarter.
“What an incredible moment for Canadian basketball, for these kids, for this team,” Canadian head coach Roy Rana told the Canadian Press. “Great win, now we’ve got to move on and get ready to play for — as unbelievable as it sounds — a world championship.”
Kentucky-bound P.J. Washington had 17 points for Team USA. Auburn’s Austin Wiley had 13 points and 17 rebounds to equal an American record in U19 play.
Canada will play Italy for gold Sunday and the U.S. team will face Spain.
No Romeo: For the second time in the tournament, New Albany (Ind.) star guard Romeo Langford was held out of action for the entire game. Langford has been dealing with lower back discomfort while in Egypt but played at least three minutes in each of the last three games. Langford has played no more than eight minutes in a game during the tournament.
Contributing: Jon Hale, Courier-Journal