US advance by ousting Spain in basketball

PTI | ByJim Slater (AFP), Athens
Aug 26, 2004 07:28 PM IST

Stephon Marbury scored 31 points as the US defeated Spain 102-94 in a pressure-packed men's basketball quarter-final to keep alive their hopes of a gold medal.

Stephon Marbury scored 31 points and the United States defeated Spain 102-94 on Thursday in a pressure-packed Olympic men's basketball quarter-final to keep alive their hopes of a gold medal.

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The National Basketball Association stars advanced to a semi-final against the winner of a later game between Argentina and Greece. Other quarter-finals match unbeaten Lithuania against China and Puerto Rico against Italy.

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Marbury, shooting a woeful 20 per cent from the field through five games, found his scoring touch when the Americans needed it most.

After struggling with poor outside shooting in losses against Puerto Rico and Lithuania in preliminary play, the Americans faced a tough test in unbeaten Spain and NBA center Pau Gasol, who led the Spanish with 27 points.

Instead of relying upon big man Tim Duncan, guards Marbury and Allen Iverson took matters into their hands and sizzled, not fizzled, when shooting from outside.

Iverson finished with 16 points while Carlos Boozer added 12 and Lamar Odom 11 for the Americans, who would have been out of medal contention and assured of the worst finish in US history with a loss.

American men have won 12 gold medals since basketball was introduced at the 1936 Berlin Games, rolling up a 109-2 record until this year, when the team went 3-2 in preliminaries and was the lowest-ranked qualifier in its group.

Marbury scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, all in the final 3:45 as Spain tried in vain to recover. Marbury hit a 3-pointer and Boozer had four points in a 12-4 run that produced an 89-78 US lead, their biggest to that point.

Marbury, who had 11 points in the third quarter, sank two 3-pointers in a row to ignite a 12-3 US run that gave the Americans a 58-50 lead.

Spain answered on a 3-point play by Gasol and four points from Juan Carlos Navarro to pull even at 63-63, but co-captain Iverson scored five points in an 11-4 run that gave the US team a 74-67 edge entering the fourth quarter.

Marbury scored eight US points in a row in the first quarter and hit a 3-pointer in a 13-2 run early in the second quarter as the Americans grabbed a 38-29 lead.

But Gasol, taking advantage of foul trouble on Duncan and Lamar Odom, scored six of his 18 first-half points in an 11-0 run as Spain claimed a 40-38 edge.

Carlos Boozer, Dwayne Wade and Amare Stoudamire answered for the US squad but Rodolfo Fernandez sank a 3-pointer three seconds before half-time, lifting Spain within 44-43 at the break.

Duncan scored the game's first five points and looked to be winning the inside battle against Gasol.

But Duncan picked up his second foul only 4 1/2 minutes into the game and went to the bench. Richard Jefferson, who sank two early 3-pointers, followed him there with his second foul barely three minutes later.

The Spaniards took their first lead at 25-23 on Navarro's 3-pointer just 7:45 into the game, but Shawn Marion's layup pulled the Americans level at 25-25 after the first quarter.

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