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Friday, July 10, 2009
U.S. to play Israel for bronze

By Andy Katz
ESPN.com

Russia stunned the United States Friday in the World University Games semifinals, nipping the favored Americans 69-68 at Belgrade Arena in Serbia.

The Americans were coming off a convincing 30-point blowout of Bulgaria and were fixed on a potential championship game against Serbia after clipping the hosts in a tight two-point win in the final game of the preliminary round two days prior.

The Russians outscored the Americans 20-9 in the final minutes for the win.

The U.S. will meet Israel Saturday for a chance at the bronze medal. Host Serbia beat the Israelis, 82-56, in the other semifinal.

Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, the American head coach, said in a USA Basketball statement that the game was hard fought. He said the Americans had a hard time getting easy baskets and didn't shoot well after making 16 3s against Bulgaria's zone in the previous round. Ryan had said Thursday by phone from Serbia that he was concerned about the Russians' man-to-man defense. The Americans made just 4 of 17 3s and were 22 of 63 from the field overall.

Penn State's Talor Battle was off, making just 1 of 11 shots and missing both 3s he attempted after going 4-of-5 in the quarterfinal win over Bulgaria. West Virginia's Da'Sean Butler went 0-for-5 overall, 0-for-3 on 3s. Iowa State's Craig Brackins missed all four shots he attempted, including three 3s.

The Americans were led by Purdue's Robbie Hummel (14 points), Villanova's Corey Fisher (14) and North Carolina's Deon Thompson (12 points and 11 boards).

Clemson's Trevor Booker gave the Americans their final lead at 68-66 with two free throws off a Fisher missed 3-pointer once Booker got the board and was fouled. The Americans had the lead with 44.6 seconds left, but with 23.3 seconds remaining, Russia's Nikita Shabalkin made a 3-pointer to give Russia its first lead since the first few minutes of the game.

Following a Ryan timeout, Battle missed a shot off a Hummel pass. Hummel was double-teamed and then missed a 3-pointer. Fisher got the rebound and attempted a shot as time expired.

Hummel said in a statement, "It was very contested [his 3-pointer]. I wasn't sure how much time was left. I knew it wasn't much so I was just trying to throw something at the rim really. They played good defense.''

The Americans have dominated the WUG event since it began in 1965, winning 13 gold medals, three silvers and two bronze medals. The WUG are played every two years and each country's players have to take university or college courses. The U.S. won the gold in 2005. Lithuania won the gold in 2007, although USA Basketball didn't put a team in that event. Instead, Northern Iowa's men's basketball team represented the United States in the competition and finished ninth. The U.S. won gold in 1989, '91, '93, '95, '97 and '99 before the former Yugoslavia broke the string of six straight gold medals in 2001.

"You have a bad shooting night one game, and then you are on the sideline for the championship game,'' Ryan said in the statement. "Now we have to play for the bronze, which is a great opportunity for these guys to bounce back and leave on a winning note."

Added Fisher in a statement, "You have to give credit to Russia. They are a good team. Things didn't go our way. That's not an excuse. We came out today, we played hard and we came up with a loss. We have another game tomorrow, we just need to come positive, come strong."

Andy Katz is a senior writer for ESPN.com.