U.S. shows progress in win over Australia

Friday, August 20, 2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Larry Brown believes his team is finally starting to get it.

In a game the Americans were waltzing through and losing for the better part of three quarters, something clicked when the fourth quarter began.

One flashy and selfless play typified the turnabout: LeBron James eyed Shawn Marion's pass coming toward him and made a split-second decision to redirect the ball with a touch pass to Dwyane Wade for a layup.

The basket broke the last tie during a game-changing 10-point run at the start of the quarter, leading the United States to a 89-79 victory over Australia on Thursday at the Athens Games.

The victory -- and the way the Americans turned the game around -- might be a big step toward reversing their fortunes after they struggled to beat Greece and were embarrassed by Puerto Rico in a 19-point loss.

Brown said the players are beginning to realize what it takes to win at the Olympics.

"We don't have them all, but they're starting to care about each other and understand the importance of representing our country the right way," Brown said. "The biggest challenge coaches have today on all levels is for guys to think of coaching as coaching and not criticism."

Tim Duncan scored 18 points, Allen Iverson and Marion each added 16 and Wade scored 12. The Americans shot 57 percent from the field: 71 percent from 2-point range, but 3-for-17 on 3-point shots.

Shane Heal led Australia with 17 points.

Next up is a matchup against Lithuania, the toughest team in their group.

Softball

Lisa Fernandez pitched a one-hitter Thursday as the two-time defending gold medalist United States won its sixth straight shutout in softball, a shortened-game 7-0 victory over Greece.

Greece (2-4) did all it could. The United States (6-0) simply wore down the Greeks -- whose team includes several Americans of Greek ancestry -- and put an opponent away after five innings for the fourth time under the so-called mercy rule.

Badminton

China won the first two gold medals in badminton, with world champion Zhang Ning beating Indonesian-born Dutchwoman Mia Audina 8-11, 11-6, 11-7 in the singles final. China also flaunted its dominance of the sport in mixed doubles, with Zhang Jun and Gao Ling edging the British pair of Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms 15-1, 12-15, 15-12 in a thrilling final.

Beach Volleyball

Brazilians Emanuel and Ricardo routed Americans Dax Holdren and Stein Metzger 21-17, 21-10 to finish a perfect run through pool play.

Despite the loss, the 12th-seeded Americans advanced to the medal round.

Later, top-ranked American women Misty May and Kerri Walsh got their toughest test of the tournament but stayed unbeaten with a 21-17, 21-17 win over 10th-seeded Czechs Eva Celbova and Sona Novakova.

Boxing

U.S. medal prospect Andre Ward beat Italy's Clemente Russo 17-9 to advance to the quarterfinals as the Americans finished 6-1 in preliminaries. The Americans sent eight fighters into the second round, with two advancing on byes.

Canoe-Kayak

Former Olympic champion canoe racer Joe Jacobi and partner Matt Taylor clinched a semifinal berth in whitewater slalom event. Single American kayakers Brett Heyl and Scott Parsons also advanced to Friday's semifinals and finals.


Equestrian

Britain, France and the United States will jointly appeal a decision to award Germany the gold medal in the three-day equestrian event.

The judges gave Germany the gold Wednesday and France the silver, while Britain took bronze. The same officials, concerned that Germany's Bettina Hoy might have crossed the start line twice on the show jumping course, probed further.

Judges docked Germany 14 points, dropping it from first to fourth in a decision that lifted the United States to the bronze.

Germany then lodged a protest, an equestrian appeals committee reversed the decision of the judges and the Germans reclaimed the gold. Again, France was awarded the silver and Britain the bronze. The United States was left empty-handed.

Judo

Noriko Anno won the 78kg class in judo, giving Japan its sixth gold medal in 12 judo classes with one day of competition remaining.

Men's Volleyball

Stanislav Dineykin had 20 kills to lead the Russians to a four-set (22-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-23) victory over the Americans. Russia, after a five-set loss to the Netherlands, has won two straight. The United States fell to 1-2.

Tennis

Third-seeded Martina Navratilova won't win an Olympic medal after she and partner Lisa Raymond lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to fifth-seeded Shinobu Asagoe and Ai Sugiyama of Japan in the quarterfinals, one step shy of the medal round.

In women's singles, top-ranked Justine Henin-Hardenne beat two-time major champion Mary Pierce of France 6-4, 6-4, while No. 2 Amelie Mauresmo outlasted No. 5 Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-2.

French Open champion Anastasia Myskina was the first woman to reach the semifinals, beating Francesca Schiavone of Italy 6-1, 6-2.

Men's Water Polo

Defending Olympic champion Hungary handed the United States its first loss in men's water polo preliminaries, winning 7-5. Tamas Varga scored his second goal on an extra-man play to seal the match with 1:27 remaining.

-- From wire reports

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