The U.S. and Gonzaga incoming freshman Chet Holmgren passed their first serious test at the FIBA U19 World Cup in Riga, Latvia.
Holmgren scored 12 points, grabbed eight rebounds and swatted six shots as the U.S. downed Canada 92-86 Saturday in a matchup of the top two teams in the world rankings.
The Americans (6-0) advance to Sunday’s championship game against France. The U.S. has won four of the past five World Cups, interrupted only by Canada’s title in 2017.
Canada (5-1) faces Serbia for third place.
Holmgren made all three of his shot attempts and scored eight points as the U.S. built a 49-38 halftime lead. He drove the baseline for a two-handed dunk to boost the lead to 55-43, but Canada closed within one. The U.S. responded with seven unanswered points.
Canada’s Ryan Nembhard, younger brother of Gonzaga senior point guard Andrew Nembhard, hit a 3-pointer to help cut the U.S. lead to 69-63 at the end of three quarters.
Holmgren blocked a shot, led the break and finished with a dunk to put USA up 71-63 early in the fourth. The U.S., which lost guard Kennedy Chandler to injury late in the fourth, pulled away with a 15-0 run.
The Creighton-bound Nembhard made 7 of 22 shots and finished with 18 points, eight rebounds and six assists in nearly 39 minutes. Caleb Houstan, who drew recruiting interest from Gonzaga before signing with Michigan, scored a game-high 23 points on 6-of-19 shooting in nearly 37 minutes. Zach Edey, a 7-foot-4 center at Purdue, had 16 points and 16 boards.
The 7-1 Holmgren was effective at both ends of the court. He made his only 3-point attempt and 4 of 6 inside the arc in 23-plus minutes of playing time. He swatted two of Nembhard’s shots and two attempts by Bennedict Mathurin, who will play for former Gonzaga assistant coach Tommy Lloyd at Arizona.
Mathurin scored 19 points.
Holmgren has scored in double figures in all six tournament games. He’s averaging 3.2 blocks per game.
Kenneth Lofton led the Americans with 16 points, Mike Miles added 15 and Creighton center Ryan Kalkbrenner added 10. The U.S. shot 46% from the field and blocked 13 shots. Canada made just 35.3% of its field-goal attempts.
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