U.S. makes record 21 steals in win; Lithuania next

Updated: August 6, 2005, 10:01 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

MAR DEL PLATA, Argentina -- Lithuania is expected to give the United States its toughest game in the early rounds of the FIBA U21 World Championships.

China was supposed to be a primer.

So far, everything is going according to plan for the U.S.

Charlotte's Curtis Withers led the Americans with 19 points in a 117-50 first-round rout over China on Friday night.

Withers was 7-for-7 from the field.

Kentucky sophomore point guard Rajon Rondo chipped in with a single-game record eight steals. The team had a record 21 steals, and made 14 threes.

"I didn't realize I had that many, but the thing is, that's what I do," said Rondo on the USA Basketball Web site. "That's the reason I'm on the team, because of my defensive ability. That's what I do at the University of Kentucky, so I just try to bring it here. Pressure their point guards as much as I can, get as many steals as I can."

"I thought it was really improved play," said USA and Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli on the USA Basketball Web site. "In particular I thought our point guards did a terrific job. Marcus [Williams] had eight assists, Rajon had six, we got multiple steals from that position. They really got us into some things. The sharing of the ball is always good to see, especially when you have guys who are, quote-unquote, all-star type of players. I was pleased overall. It wasn't a competitive situation athletically or talent-wise. But certainly the idea that the ball was moved and there was situation recognition, I thought all of that was positive for us."

Lithuania beat Puerto Rico 97-81 Friday night and will play the Americans at 2:30 p.m. ET Saturday. The Americans beat Lithuania 91-86 in the Global Games on July 29 in Dallas.

In the win over China, Connecticut sophomore Rudy Gay scored 18 points, Oklahoma senior Taj Gray and Villanova senior Allan Ray scored 14 points apiece. Connecticut junior Marcus Williams had a team-high eight assists.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.