WASHINGTON — Even without a roster full of current NBA stars, the United States breezed through this World Cup qualifying window.
It hasn’t always been that easy.
Langston Galloway scored 16 points and former pro standout Joe Johnson added 14 to lift the U.S. to an 89-67 win over Mexico on Sunday in qualifying for next year’s World Cup. The Americans avenged their lone loss of this qualifying round, routing the previously unbeaten Mexican team in a game that wasn’t close after the first few minutes.
The U.S. led 48-21 at halftime.
“We started this camp with Mexico on our heart. They humbled us in Mexico, and we were ready to play against them,” coach Jim Boylen said. “They beat us from the 3-point line down there, and they beat us bad, and so I have to give our guys credit. They came prepared.”
With the NBA season taking place at the same time as these qualifying games, most of the U.S. players came from the G League. Still, all the Americans (3-1) need to do is avoid finishing last in their four-team group to advance to the next round of qualifying. They would be assured of that if Puerto Rico beats Cuba later Sunday.
During the first qualifying window – at Mexico in November – the U.S. beat Cuba by five and lost 97-88 to Mexico. The American roster changed significantly for this window, and the U.S. won both games in Washington comfortably. The Americans beat Puerto Rico 93-76 on Thursday night. The next qualifying window is in July.
“The first window was very difficult. Cuba gave us a heck of a game. We were down in the last five minutes,” Boylen said. “I thought Mexico, the last time we played them, was more physical than us, tougher than us. They shot the ball at an unbelievable rate.”
The 40-year-old Johnson, a seven-time NBA All-Star, is the biggest name on this U.S. team. Galloway also has a good amount of NBA experience. David Stockton, whose Hall of Fame father John was in attendance Sunday, scored 15 points.
“I was looking forward to the opportunity,” said Galloway, a 30-year-old guard who has played for seven NBA teams, most recently the Bucks and Nets this season. “I was fortunate enough to be in the G League, to be able to play in this situation. This opportunity doesn’t come around that often, so it was truly a blessing for me.”
Mexico (3-1) never led in the rematch against the U.S. The Americans went on a 14-0 run spanning the end of the first quarter and start of the second, taking a 33-14 lead.
Fabian Jaimes led Mexico with 11 points.
“It was the first half. We came out flat in the first half,” Mexico coach Omar Quintero said. “We gave a lot of easy looks for them.”
The World Cup is next year from Aug. 25-Sept. 10 in Indonesia, Japan and the Philippines. Teams can qualify directly from the World Cup for the 2024 Olympics.