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Rodgers, Team USA in gold medal game | Sports

What happened

Saturday’s semifinal showdown with Argentina played out similarly to Team USA’s quarterfinal matchup with Mexico in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship. The U.S. found itself in an early battle with Argentina through one quarter — but at least held the lead — before becoming too much to handle in transition and in attacking the basket at the offensive end. Argentina literally had no answer, and a 98-60 victory for Team USA was the result. Illinois freshman Ty Rodgers finished with two points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal.

What it means

Rodgers’ scoring dipped once the tournament shifted from pool to bracket play, including a four-point effort Friday against Mexico. Look past that. The 6-foot-6 wing was likely never going to be Team USA’s first option offensively. That’s basically been Kel’el Ware and Cam Whitmore’s bailiwick — at least before the latter was ejected in the fourth quarter Saturday. But Rodgers has started all but one game this week for a reason. He impacts winning in others ways. Somewhere Illinois coach Brad Underwood is nodding along in satisfied agreement.

What’s next

Saturday’s blowout secured Team USA a spot in the FIBA U18 Americas Championship title game where the U.S. will face Brazil at 7 p.m. Sunday at Auditorio Zonkeys in Tijuana, Mexico. It will be an opportunity for Rodgers to add his name to a rather exclusive list of Illini gold medalists. Two former Illini even won gold at previous FIBA U18 Americas Championship events, with current Chicago Bulls guard Ayo Dosunmu bringing one back to Champaign-Urbana in 2018 and Jereme Richmond doing the same in 2010.

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

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