After much ado, American dream ends with bronze

Uniform delay can't stop U.S. win over Lithuania, 104-96

Argentina golden

Men's Basketball

Athens 2004

August 29, 2004|By Jerry Brewer | Jerry Brewer,ORLANDO SENTINEL

ATHENS -- For a basketball team that could no longer dress itself properly, bronze doesn't look too bad.

In an appropriately bizarre ending, the U.S. men's basketball team won the bronze medal last night, but it did so after a delay of about 35 minutes.

The reason: The United States and Lithuania both showed up in white uniforms.

According to the International Basketball Federation (FIBA), neither team erred. Officials accidentally told both to wear white. But after a summer of four losses (including against Italy in an exhibition game), what's a little uniform miscue in the big picture? The U.S. team eventually fetched its red uniforms, the game began, and the Americans took a 104-96 victory in a contest that featured little defense.

Lithuania made 21 three-pointers and still lost. Shawn Marion led the United States with 22 points. Allen Iverson contributed 15 points, and Stephon Marbury and Lamar Odom scored 14 apiece.

"We wanted gold, but I'm going to take anything right now," Marion said. "That's the way it is."

The United States lost to Argentina in the semifinals and was forced to play for bronze. Argentina then beat Italy, 84-69, and won the gold medal.

The United States entered the Games with an overall Olympics record of 109-2. These Americans finished 5-3, including losses to Puerto Rico and Lithuania. For only the third time, they competed and failed to win gold.

After the embarrassing loss to Argentina, it was difficult for the Americans to get up for this game.

"This is probably the hardest game I've ever been involved in, in terms of being a coach," said U.S. coach Larry Brown, who went into the locker room at halftime and returned 55 seconds into the third quarter.

Now, the attention turns to how to fix the problems within U.S. men's basketball. The women's team offered some advice after winning gold with a 74-63 victory over Australia yesterday: convince the best players to play.

"The difference between us and the guys is that we have experienced players here," U.S. point guard Dawn Staley said. "They don't have any."

One who may not lend his experience again is Tim Duncan. He will be only 32 in 2008, but Duncan doesn't see himself playing.

"I'm about 95 percent sure my FIBA career is over," said Duncan, who spent most of his Olympics in foul trouble.

In the gold-medal game, Argentina got its normal solid game from its star, the San Antonio Spurs' Manu Ginobli, who scored 16 points and added six assists and six rebounds. Teammate Pepe Sanchez also helped keep the Argentine offense flowing with five assists.

But the leader for the winners was Luis Alberto Scola, with 25 points and 11 rebounds.

Italy, a surprise finalist after upsetting Lithuania, spread its scoring out, with Gianmarco Pozzecco and Matteo Soragna each scoring 12 points.

Italy shot 41 percent from two-point range to Argentina's 62 percent.

The Los Angeles Times contributed to this article. The Orlando Sentinel and Los Angeles Times are Tribune Publishing newspapers.

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