Cuba Steamrolls The U.S. Virgin Islands In Lopsided Defeat 91-64: AmeriCup 2021
CHARLOTTE AMALIE — Cuba couldn’t defend its house, but three days later achieved a paramount victory in its intentions to return to the most significant continental stage.
The Cuban national team recovered from its defeat in Havana in the first game after defeating the U.S. Virgin Islands, 91-64, at the UVI Sports and Fitness Center in a Group C game in the FIBA AmeriCup 2021 Qualifiers on Monday evening.
Cuba and the U.S. Virgin Islands each have a 1-1 record. Still, the Cubans lead the point-difference (+11), which could be a defining aspect when deciding who will qualify for next year’s FIBA AmeriCup for Group C, which they share with Canada and the Dominican Republic.
The last Cuban appearance in the continental tournament was in 2015, while the Virgin Islands concluded in a historic fourth place in the 2017 edition.
Cuba’s starting five scored in the double figures. Yoel Cubilla was the best Cuban player of the evening, with 21 points and 19 rebounds (11 offensive) and four blocks; Jasiel Rivero followed with 18 points and ten rebounds; Yoanki Mensia contributed 20 points; Karel Guzmán, 13; and Yuniskel Molina scored 10 points and nine assists.
Walter Hodge represented the Virgin Islands with 23 points and four assists. Xavier Richards scored 13 points, and Jervan Jackson recovered 12 rebounds.
Cuba dominated the rebounds, 50-44, and the blocks, 7-2. The players were effective in the inside game against the Virgin Islanders, who were ineffective in the attack (30.4% from the field).
Cuba came willing to knock out the locals, and with a quick 10-1 difference when the game started, the visiting team took control. After two free-throws by Rivero, the Cubans increased the gap to 14.1 with 3:59 left in the first quarter.
The USVI needed more than six minutes and a half to get their first field shot, courtesy of their star, Hodge. The Virgin Islanders tried to stay in the game, 22-10, after ten minutes.
The Cubans kept going and playing as a team in the second quarter, and with a floater by Cubilla after an assist by Guzmán, sustained their dominance, 30-15. Free throws by Hodge gave life to the Virgin Islands, 38-26, but Cuba’s Molina answered with a three-point shot for the Greatest of the Antilles, going to the half-time with a good advantage, 42-26.
In the third quarter, Cuba didn’t allow any risky advance by the Virgin Islands. With a layup by Cubilla, the difference increased to 20, 48-28, and the locals’ frustration grew. The Virgin Islands tried to jump back into the game, but Cuba answered by attacking and, with a long-distance shot by Rivero, the Cubans didn’t make way for the locals, 55-33. During the rest of the quarter, the closest the USVI got to the leading team was by 16 points.
The fourth quarter was purely academic. The Virgin Islands couldn’t find any fluidity in its offense, allowing Cuba to remain at ease in the lead. A three-pointer by Mensia erased any chance of the Virgin Islanders climbing up, 80-60, with 3:08 left to play.
Cuba and the Virgin Islands will step on the court again in November to play as locals against Canada and the Dominican Republic.