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US tops Ukraine to finish basketball worlds group

September 4, 2014
Associated Press

BILBAO, Spain (AP) — James Harden scored 17 points, Stephen Curry added 14 and the unbeaten U.S. national team wrapped up pool play with a 95-71 victory over Ukraine on Thursday at the Basketball World Cup.

Anthony Davis finished with 12 points for the Americans, who will face Mexico on Saturday night in Barcelona in the round of 16. The Mexicans finished fourth in Group D.

It was closer than the usual U.S. game, but the Americans were never in any danger of losing in the second half after seizing control just before halftime against a methodical Ukraine team coached by former NBA coach Mike Fratello.

The only scare was a hard landing by starting guard Kyrie Irving with 1:12 left, but he eventually got up and walked off holding his lower back.

The Americans left later Thursday for the next round, held in the city where the famed U.S. Dream Team won gold in the 1992 Olympics.

International fans and journalists still refer to a U.S. squad as the Dream Team, though this one doesn't rise to that level. But despite some significant player losses that left them with the youngest team they have sent to an international competition since pros could be used, the Americans have shown an occasional ability to dominate like some of their more potent predecessors.

They still managed to finish close to their tournament-best average of 104 points despite not making a field goal for nearly the first 5 minutes of the game.

The Ukrainians were eliminated from contention after finishing 2-3, Fratello saying they were told they fell short by one point in point differential and lost tiebreakers.

Fratello is a longtime TV analyst who returned to the sideline in 2011 to work for Ukrainian federation president Alexander "Sasha" Volkov, one of his former players with the Atlanta Hawks.

His team made the Americans work for nearly a half, then ended up getting blown out like everyone else.

The U.S. had another poor start, though this one may have been chalked up to a lack of intensity in a meaningless contest, with the No. 1 seed from its group having been clinched a day earlier.

There were hundreds of empty seats behind the basket that had been filled for the first game by Finland fans whose team lost. They didn't miss much early from the Americans, who took nearly half of the opening period to make their first field goal and trailed for much of the first half.

Ukraine led 19-14 after one and was still ahead 27-25 midway through the second before the Americans finally put a spurt together. Curry nailed a pair of 3-pointers as the U.S. outscored Ukraine 19-5 over the final 4:43 to take a 44-32 into halftime.

It grew to 69-54 after three, but a couple quick baskets at the beginning of the period got the Americans off and running toward an easy final quarter, though there were some concerned faces when Irving lost his balance after leaping and landed with an easily heard thud.

 
 

 

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