If there was any doubt that Kentucky freshmen Hamidou Diallo and P.J. Washington are among the most important players for John Calipari’s under-19 USA Basketball team, they erased it Wednesday in the Round of 16 at the 2017 FIBA World Cup in Egypt. They combined for 34 points and 14 rebounds in a 117-69 win over Mali that proved to be a slog whenever the two Wildcats weren’t on the floor.
Diallo scored six points in the first four minutes — including two steals and highlight-reel dunks — as he and Washington helped USA build a 30-10 lead. That’s when Calipari pulled the starters and seemed committed to resting them against arguably the worst team in the field, ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal matchup with Germany.
But the backups couldn’t put away Mali, so Diallo and Washington jumped back in and finished the job. Kentucky’s two future stars combined for 13 consecutive points for USA (4-0) at the end of the third quarter and start of the fourth.
Diallo scored on a post-up jump hook, then Washington on a baseline drive, up-and-under, plus a foul. Washington snagged a defensive rebound and rifled ahead to a streaking Diallo for a dunk, then crossed up a defender on a drive for a two-hand slam of his own, then hit Diallo with another outlet pass for a dunk.
Diallo has produced so many dazzling plays already, he got his own mix tape from FIBA:
Meanwhile, Washington looked totally unstoppable for the second straight game — “I don’t know how you guard him,” Calipari had said after he scored 20 against Italy on Tuesday — scoring again on a pick-and-roll layup, then a monster jam through a defender for an and-one, and once more on a drive and finish from the top of the key.
He hit 9 of 12 shots for 20 points to go with 8 rebounds, while Diallo had 14 points (6-of-10 shooting), 6 rebounds and 3 assists. Both Cats accomplished those impressive stat lines in less than 19 minutes of action. Washington has scored 40 points on 17-of-21 shooting in his last 35 minutes at the World Cup.
Through four games, the UK duo is averaging a combined 38.8 points, 10. 1 rebounds, 5 assists and 2.6 steals in just 18 minutes per game — and shooting 60.7 percent from the field. That should get Big Blue Nation fairly excited about the 2017-18 season. And don’t forget about sophomore forward Tai Wynyard, whose New Zealand team fell short of a quarterfinal showdown with Team USA in a 72-65 loss to Germany on Wednesday.
The 6-foot-10 Wynyard had 14 points (5-of-10 shooting), 9 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in defeat. New Zealand will face Mali in the consolation bracket Friday. Through four games, Wynyard is averaging 12.8 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2 blocks in 25.4 minutes per contest.
P.J. Washington stats through 4 games
Hamidou Diallo stats through 4 games
Tai Wynyard stats through 4 games
USA vs Mali highlights
What’s next for Team USA in the 2017 FIBA World Cup?
USA (4-0) will face the New Zealand-Germany winner in Friday’s quarterfinals at a time to be announced. The semifinals follow Saturday and gold and bronze medal games on Sunday in Cairo.
How can I watch Team USA in the 2017 FIBA World Cup?
USA vs Mali box score