The US Beat France In The U19 World Cup Thanks To New American Hero Kenneth Lofton Jr

The US Beat France In The U19 World Cup Thanks To New American Hero Kenneth Lofton Jr

While the United States men’s Olympic team had a rough weekend, dropping its first tuneup game to Nigeria in stunning fashion on Saturday night in Las Vegas, over in Latvia, the U-19 men’s squad had a chance to redeem the nation’s basketball pride against France on Sunday in the finals of the FIBA U-19 World Cup.

The matchup pit two of the best basketball prospects in the world against each other, with Chet Holmgren of the U.S., the nation’s best high school player this past season, going up against Victor Wembanyama of France, the latter of whom is considered the top prospect at any level. Wembanyama, in particular, was tremendous, scoring 22 points to lead all scorers along with eight rebounds and an outrageous eight blocks in 27 minutes of action.

However, the French star would foul out with a few minutes to play — after France oddly went away from him offensively in the fourth quarter as the U.S. made their run — and that would only further open the floor up for the Americans.

Holmgren struggled in his matchup with Wembanyama early, but was able to find some success in the second half as he finished with 10 points and five assists, but the star of the game was Kenneth Lofton Jr. (not related to the baseball Kenny Lofton), whose size and strength was just something no one on the French side — including Wembanyama — could deal with. Lofton got himself deep post position a number of times in the second half, and when he did, he just carved out space under the rim to get an easy bucket, muscling French defenders out of the way.

However, it wasn’t just strength that the big fella put on display, as Lofton showed off the athleticism with some skill off the bounce to get by defenders and to the rim, even when he wasn’t able to establish deep post position.

On defense, he also showed off some quick, active hands, twice creating turnovers in the fourth quarter by stripping a French player to help keep the U.S. ahead.

On the United States’ final possession, up just two, a shot to put the dagger in went begging, but it didn’t matter because Lofton was able to bully his way to the rebound to keep the possession alive and run out the clock with a putback that missed.

In all, Lofton finished with 16 points and seven rebounds (three offensive), doing most of his damage in the fourth to help lead the U.S. comeback. He had help from the ultra-bouncy Jaden Ivey, who also finished with 16 points, but for everyone watching on Sunday morning, it will be Lofton’s performance that will stick with them for a long time, a stunning achievement given the talent on the floor for both sides.