Nichols Deals, Scores to lead U.S.

Nichols Deals, Scores to lead U.S.

The secret is out -- at least in Taipei, Taiwan. Darris Nichols' complete game is the linchpin for his team's success, as he showed again in the U.S.'s 79-65 win over the Korean national team in the Jones Cup.

Nichols enjoyed a perfect 5-5 shooting day from the field (ncluding 2-2 from three-point range), and finished as the team's leading scorer as the U.S. Athletes In Action team moved to 2-1 on the tournament. Nichols dished out seven assists against just one turnover, and added two steals and a rebound while playing just over half the game.

With 12 players on the roster sharing time, it might be difficult to get into any sort of rhythm, but Nichols, who handles most any sort of adversity with a cool demeanor, hasn't let that affect him. His leadership on the floor has helped the U.S. bounce back from its opening game loss, and with the team picking up momentum, anything is possible in the nine-game event.

West Virginia's Alex Ruoff also continued to make the most of his time on the floor. He chipped in five points on 2-3 shooting, and had two rebounds and three assists in 22 minutes of action.

Nichols (Radford, Va./West Virginia) led a trio of AIA players in double figures. Tyler Wilkerson (Lexington, Ky./Marshall) added 11 points on to go along with a game-high eight rebounds. Todd Hendley (Sanford, N.C./UNC Wilmington) added 10 points as 11 of the 12 AIA players scored.

AIA (2-1) persevered through a low-scoring first quarter and led by two, 16-14, entering the second period. Eric Pollitz (Ottawa, Ohio/Miami University) scored six of the squad's first eight points as the U.S. methodically built its lead, but never able to extend it to double digits until the second quarter.

The lead continued to grow at the start of the second. Zack Gibson's (Grand Blanc, Mich./Michigan) dunk highlighted a 14-4 run by the U.S., giving it a 10-point lead with 5:34 remaining before halftime. Back-to-back baskets by Nichols extended the lead to 13 before Korea (2-1) ended the half by scoring the final six points.

AIA lead by seven at intermission, 34-27.

In a very active scoring third, the U.S. quickly regained its double digit advantage as Todd Hendley scored the team's first six points and pushed the lead to 10, 2:30 into the half. Korea then ran off six unanswered points to get within four for the first time since it trailed by two at the end of the first.

Without delay, AIA extended its lead back to double digits going on a 13-4 run to take a 53-40 lead with five different players contributing during the spurt.

Following back-to-back threes by Nichols, Brian Asbury (Miami, Fla./Miami) gave AIA a 15-point cushion with 28 seconds left before the start of the final period.

Defensively, the U.S. limited Korea to a wretched 19 percent (3-of-23) shooting from behind the arc, while shooting 54 percent (7-of-13) from 3.

Overall, the U.S. connected on 51 percent (33-of-64) of its field goal attempts and held the Koreans to under 40 percent (25-of-64). The American team also had a +17 rebounding advantage.

The lead grew to 19 late in the fourth quarter when the Pollitz twins scored back-to-back baskets.

AIA will go after its third consecutive victory Thursday, July 5, as it faces Jordan at 3:30 p.m. (3:30 a.m. EDT).

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