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Thursday, August 26, 2004
Team USA takes down unbeaten Spain

Associated Press

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ATHENS, Greece -- Larry Brown was right. The Americans did start hitting their jump shots, and suddenly they look as if they might be the team to beat at the Athens Games.

Stephon Marbury broke the U.S. men's Olympic record with 31 points, helping to beat Spain 102-94 in the quarterfinals Thursday and transform a team that had spent the first 1½ weeks missing jumpers.

Stephon Marbury
Stephon Marbury's 31 points surpassed the old U.S. mark of 30 by both Charles Barkley ('92) and Adrian Dantley ('76).
"Stephon shot the ball like Stephon today,'' Lamar Odom said.

After spending 90 minutes working on his shot on the team's day off, Marbury made six of his team's 12 3-pointers and was a big reason the previously undefeated Spaniards are now out of medal contention. They weren't happy about it.

As the teams left the court, Spanish coach Mario Pesquera and Brown yelled and pointed at each other about a late U.S. timeout, and they had to be separated by their assistants.

In the U.S. team's first five games, Marbury scored just 21 points, missing 24 of 30 shots. The Americans lost two of those games: an embarrassing blowout to Puerto Rico to open the Olympics and against Lithuania in the final seconds.

Against Spain, Marbury played spectacularly, and the Americans finally resembled U.S. teams from the past three Olympics -- not letting a large foul disparity rattle them, knocking down their free throws and surpassing 100 points for the first at these games.

"We've been playing against so much zone, it doesn't really matter anymore," Marbury said. "We're starting to like playing against zones."

The Americans were 12-for-22 on 3-pointers after shooting a tournament-low 24 percent in their first five games. Brown, though, had insisted for the past week that it was just a matter of time before the Americans started hitting their shots.

"They were very good on 3s. That was something new in this tournament," Spain's Pau Gasol said. "They looked motivated, and it'll be hard to beat them if they keep playing like that."

Marbury's six 3s broke the U.S. record of five set by Reggie Miller against China in 1996, and his scoring total passed the mark of 30 points shared by Charles Barkley (1992 vs. Brazil) and Adrian Dantley (1976 vs. Yugoslavia). Lisa Leslie holds the overall U.S Olympic record with 35 points (1996 vs. Japan).

Allen Iverson added 16 points, Carlos Boozer had 12 and Lamar Odom 11 for the Americans, who advanced to the semifinals against Argentina, which beat Greece.

Gasol led Spain with 29 points but was held to just four in the fourth quarter by a tenacious American defensive effort, which quieted a pro-Spanish crowd of 14,500 that included Spain's King Juan Carlos.

Duncan scored the Americans' first five points and blocked Spain's first shot, but he was on the bench just 4½ minutes into the quarter and stayed there for the rest of the first half after picking up two fouls. The U.S. team made four of its first five 3-point attempts, and the first quarter ended in a 25-25 tie.

In a seesaw second quarter, the Americans went ahead by eight points, feeding off the defensive energy of Dwyane Wade, before Spain rallied with an 11-0 run. The United States led 44-43 at halftime despite giving up 18 points to Gasol and being called for 14 of the game's 19 fouls.

Marbury hit a pair of 3s early in the third quarter, and Brown took a risk by leaving Duncan in after he picked up his third foul with 5:22 left. Marbury reached 21 points on a 3-pointer that gave the U.S. team a 63-56 lead.

A 7-0 run by Spain tied the game, but Carmelo Anthony ended the quarter with a 3-pointer to give the Americans a 74-67 lead.

Odom drew his fifth and final foul with 5:29 left and the Americans ahead 80-73, and it was 82-78 when Marbury hit the team's 12th 3-pointer. Duncan's putback increased the lead to 87-78.

Gasol didn't score his first points of the fourth quarter until 2:02 remained, and the Americans stayed comfortably ahead by making seven straight free throws after Spain started intentionally fouling.