Kevin Durant carried the U.S. men’s basketball team to its first FIBA World Championship title since 1994, scoring 28 points in an 81-64 victory over host Turkey in the gold medal game.
Without LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant or any other members of the Olympic team that won gold in Beijing two years ago, the U.S. finished with a 9-0 record behind Durant and a roster that included five other players who were 22 or younger.
“We didn’t have an identification. They were called the ‘B Team,’” USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said in a statement. “I think that’s over with.”
It’s the first world championship title for U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, who won bronze medals the previous two times. Team USA failed to reach the championship game at the tournament in 1998, 2002 and 2006.
Durant, 21, averaged 22.7 points in Istanbul and totaled 99 in the final three games.
The National Basketball Association’s leading scorer last season for Oklahoma City, Durant hit seven 3-point shots against a Turkish team that also went 8-0 in reaching the gold medal game. He scored 20 points during the first half to lead the U.S. to a 10-point halftime advantage, and then hit a pair of 3-pointers early in the third quarter to extend the lead.
When Durant left yesterday’s game with 42 seconds left, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player shared a hug with Krzyzewski, who also coached the U.S. Olympic team in Beijing.
“This group, they really have represented our country so well,” Krzyzewski said. “Most people didn’t think we could win. They kept getting better.”
Lamar Odom had 15 points and 11 rebounds for Team USA, which automatically qualifies for the 2012 Olympics in London, while Russell Westbrook added 13.
Turkey, which was seeking to become the first host nation to win the FIBA World Championship since Yugoslavia in 1970, was led by 16 points from Hedo Turkoglu.
Lithuania won the bronze medal yesterday by beating Serbia 99-88 behind 33 points from Linas Kleiza.