LA RIOJA, Argentina -- The U.S. will have to wait at least a few more days before clinching a berth in the 2019 Basketball World Cup.
Nicolas Laprovittola scored 17 points, Lucio Redivo added 14 and Argentina shook off a slow start to beat the U.S. 80-63 in a World Cup qualifying game Thursday night. The victory put Argentina (8-1) atop Group E qualifying in the Americas region, one game up on the U.S. (7-2) with three contests remaining for both teams.
The top three teams in the division are assured of a spot in the World Cup, and the Americans can clinch with a win Sunday at Uruguay.
"I think we had a rough night all around," U.S. coach Jeff Van Gundy said. "I don't think there were a lot of positives for us in this game, and so much of sports is about when you get your butt kicked how you respond. We're together three more days and hopefully we play much better."
Travis Trice scored 16 points for the U.S., which was doomed by getting outscored 31-10 over a 13-minute stretch spanning the end of the second quarter and the entire third.
The Americans led 12-0 early after Argentina missed its first 10 shots.
From there, it was basically all Argentina.
The U.S. lead was trimmed to 16-13 after the first quarter, and the Americans were still up 30-26 with 3 minutes left in the half before Argentina started to roll. The hosts took a 35-32 lead into the locker room, then outscored the U.S. 23-8 in the third -- a run capped by Nicolas Brussino's 3-pointer from the left corner with a second left that had the overflow crowd in an 11,000-seat arena roaring.
Brussino scored 11 and former NBA standout Luis Scola had 10 for Argentina.
"Argentina is a tremendous team and after the first five minutes they kicked our butts and give them all the credit," Van Gundy said. "They played a terrific game on both ends of the floor."
The U.S. is using rosters filled primarily by G League players in qualifying because of changes in FIBA rules. NBA players aren't available for the qualifying games, though if the U.S. makes it to the World Cup in China it will then be the NBA stars taking over in a quest for a third consecutive gold medal in the event -- which will serve as a qualifier for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Meanwhile, Uruguay took a big step forward in its quest to qualify from the Americas region.
Mathias Calfani's go-ahead 3-pointer with 4.8 seconds left was part of a wild finish as Uruguay defeated Puerto Rico 64-62 in another Group E game Thursday. Uruguay (6-3) moved into third place outright in the group, a game up on Puerto Rico (5-4).
U.S.: The U.S. didn't take its first free throw until 9:09 remained in the fourth quarter. ... Chasson Randle, Scotty Hopson and Reggie Hearn each scored 9 points for the Americans, who shot only 35 percent and were 8-for-29 from 3-point range.
Argentina: Not only did Argentina miss its first 10 shots, but it also missed its first six free throws. When Brussino finally connected with 30 seconds left in the half, the home fans responded with a sarcastic cheer. ... Laprovittola had eight assists, matching the entire U.S. total for the night.
A moment of silence was held pregame in memory of FIBA secretary general and International Olympic Committee member Patrick Baumann, who died in Argentina last month after a heart attack.
U.S.: Visits Uruguay on Sunday.
Argentina: Hosts Mexico on Sunday.