Italy smacks USA in pre-Olympic exhibition
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The USA Senior Men (1-1) saw first hand why many consider
the upcoming Athens Olympics basketball competition as the most competitive ever
as Italy (1-1) led from early in the first quarter and pushed on to post a 95-78
win on the USA Monday night at the Kolnarena in Cologne, Germany. The loss snapped
the 19-game exhibition games win streak the USA seniors possessed and leaves USA
senior teams comprised of NBA players with a 19-1 overall mark in exhibition games,
wand a 69-3 record in official FIBA Tournaments (not including exhibition games).
The United States will return to the court Tuesday night in a game against the
host German National Team in Cologne. The USA-Germany game will be televised live
by ESPN (2 p.m. EDT).
"I thought they (Italy) played great, they played like a real team, the crowd
was phenomenal. We wanted to come over and play against quality teams in an environment
like this and I think it's going to help us. We have a lot of young players that
learned a lesson tonight, learned that other people around the world are great
players, there's great coaches everywhere, and they're going to be in for a lot
of lessons the next two weeks and we hope we learn from them," said USA mentor
"It's a different style of play then we're accustomed to. We have a new team and
a young team so we have to grow up very quickly. The opportunity to play against
a great team, a well coached team with very smart players, I think will help us
in the future, " added Brown.
"It was a wake up call for us as a unit, as a team," stated USA co-captain Allen
Iverson. "Everybody thinks that when you say you have to play together as a team
you're talking about the offensive end of the court. But to be a good team, you
have to play good team defense. You've got to help each other cover and I think
we had problems tonight communicating with each other on the defensive end.
"I honestly think we needed something like this for us to understand that it's
not going to be easy, its going to be tough, its only going to help us down the
road," said Iverson.
The United States slipped out to a 6-3 lead early, and led 8-7 with 4:43 to play
in the opening stanza, but that was its last lead as Massimo Bulleri hit a 3-pointer
with 4:34 left in quarter one to lift Italy to a 10-8 lead. Leading 13-11, Italy
closed out the quarter's final 2:23 with a 10-3 run to move ahead 23-14 at the
end of the first quarter.
Italy's 6-11 forward Giacomo Galanda put on a shooting demonstration in the second
quarter, scoring Italy's first 12 points and finished with 14 overall in the second
quarter alone to help Italy to a 35-20 lead with 4:49 left before half.
The U.S., behind six points from Carmelo Anthony (Denver Nuggets) and four points
from Shawn Marion (Phoenix Suns), closed out the quarter with a 13-6 run that
left the Italians holding a 41-35 advantage as the teams headed to the locker
rooms at intermission. The U.S. continued to slug it out with Italy and following
an Iverson basket with 2:34 left in the third quarter, the U.S. had clawed back
to within four, 56-52.
But Italy's 6-3 guard Gianluca Basile picked up where teammate Galanda had left
off in the second quarter and while accounting for 15 of his team's 23 third quarter
points on 5-of-8 shooting from 3-point, after nailing back-to-back 3-pointers
he had helped Italy fight off the USA rally and regain control 62-52 with 1:42
remaining in the third period.
Taking a 65-58 lead into the final 10 minutes, Italy started the final stanza
by scoring the first seven points to take control 71-56 and the USA was unable
to overcome the deficit.
The USA was led offensively by Anthony who finished with 19 points and six rebounds,
while Tim Duncan (San Antonio Spurs) accounted for 15 points and 10 rebounds,
Iverson added 13 points, and Marion capped the night with 1o points. Italy has
paced by Galanda's 28 points (5-8 3pt FGs) and Basile's 25 points (7-25 3pt FGs).
The USA held a significant advantage on the glass, outrebounding Italy 37-to-19.
However, the Americans committed 23 turnovers, Italy made just 10, and further
hurt their cause by making just 16-of-29 free throws.
The U.S. shot 53.7 percent (29-54 FGs) from the field overall, and was 4-of-13
from 3-point. Italy finished shooting 46.8 percent (29-62 FGs) overall, and as
a team made 15-of-35 3-pointers (.429 percent).
The USA senior men opened their training on July 26 at the University of North
Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., and are spending the 20 days leading up to the
start of the 2004 Athens Olympic basketball competition training in Jacksonville;
Cologne; Belgrade, Serbia & Montenegro; and Istanbul, Turkey, and will play a
total of six exhibition games.
USA Basketball's plans call for ESPN to broadcast live the Wednesday (2 p.m. EDT)
contest versus Germany in Cologne.. The USA-Serbia & Montenegro game on Friday,
Aug. 6 in Belgrade, will be shown tape delayed by ESPN at 7 p.m. (EDT), and the
USA Senior National Team Tour concludes in Istanbul, Turkey, and ABC will televise
live nationally on Sunday, Aug. 8 (2 p.m. EDT) the USA-Turkey game, while ESPN
will show the Aug. 10 (1 p.m. EDT), USA-Turkey game live.
The 2004 Olympic men's basketball competition takes place Aug. 15-28 in Athens.
The United States men, the three-time defending Olympic champions, will compete
in Group B with Angola, Australia, Greece, Lithuania and Puerto Rico. The other
men's preliminary round group, Group A, consists of Argentina, China, Italy, New
Zealand, Serbia & Montenegro and Spain.
The USA men open preliminary play in the 2004 Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 15 against
Puerto Rico (8 p.m., all times are local time), then will play host Greece on
Tuesday, Aug. 17 (10:15 p.m.), Australia on Thursday, Aug. 19 (2:30 p.m.), Lithuania
on Saturday, Aug. 21 (8 p.m.), and the US concludes its preliminary play facing
Angola on Monday, Aug. 23 (2:30 p.m.). Quarterfinals play is slated for Thursday,
Aug. 26, with semifinals action being held on Friday, Aug. 27 and the final games
to determine first through eight places are slated to be played on Saturday, Aug.
Brown, who has won a gold medal as a player at the 1964 Olympics and as an assistant
coach at the 2000 Olympics, and who most recently led the Detroit Pistons to the
2004 NBA title, is head coach of the 2004 USA Basketball Men's Senior National
Team and will draw on his recent international head coaching experiences that
saw him lead USA teams in 1999 and 2003 to 10-0 records and Olympic qualifying
berths. Assisting Brown on the USA bench is San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg
Popovich, who owns a pair of NBA championships (1999 and 2003), and a pair of
very successful collegiate head mentors in Clemson University's (S.C.) Oliver
Purnell and University of North Carolina's Roy Williams.
The U.S. men, gold medalists in 12 of the 14 Olympics in which it has participated,
own a remarkable 109-2 win-loss record in Olympic play for a .982 winning percentage.
USA Olympic teams featuring NBA players are 24-0 since making their first appearance
at the 1992 Olympics and the US has won the last three Olympic titles when NBA
players have participated (1992, 1996, 2000).
A record almost as impressive as the USA's success in the Olympics is the one
enjoyed by USA Basketball Men's Senior National teams comprised of NBA players.
Since first fielding in 1992 a team of legendary NBA stars, USA Basketball Men's
Senior National Teams have competed in eight international basketball competitions
and compiled a stellar 69-3 record. Between 1992 and six games into the 2002 World
Championship the USA seniors won a remarkable 58 straight games. The win streak
came to a halt at the 2002 World Championship when the US fell 87-80 to Argentina
(Sept. 4, 2002). The US seniors currently own a 11-game win streak after finishing
10-0 to win gold at the 2003 FIBA Americas Olympic Qualifying Tournament.