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Russia Beats U.S. in Basketball

August 8, 1998

ATHENS, Greece (AP) _ America’s hopes of repeating as World Basketball champions with a ragtag collection of players ended today when the United States was beaten by Russia 66-64 on a layup by Sergey Panov with 4 seconds left.

Wendell Alexis banked in a desperation 30-foot shot which would have won the game for the Americans, but he released the ball just after the final buzzer.

The United States, which went scoreless for the final 3:08, will play for third place Sunday.

Sergey Babkov had a game-high 30 points for Russia, while Vassily Karassev added 10.

Fittingly, no one stood out for the U.S. crew of castoffs. Center Gerald King, who plays in Italy, led the way with 10 points, but had none after halftime.

The loss meant the United States will have to go through qualifying for a spot in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Only the world champion and host Australia earn automatic berths.

Today’s game was a rematch of the gold medal game at the 1994 world championship, which Dream Team II, stocked with such stars as Shaquille O’Neal, Reggie Miller and Shawn Kemp, won 137-91.

While the core of that Russian team still was in uniform for the country, this U.S. squad was vastly different.

A dozen NBA players were thrown off the team when they threatened a boycott with a lockout looming in the NBA. In their places, a team of CBA and European league players was put together aher g gsponded in mid-June by dumping them in favor of a mix of players mostly from the minor-league CBA and European leagues.

European champion Yugoslavia, which plays the best basketball outside of the NBA and got the silver medal behind the Dream Team in the ’96 Olympics, played Greece in Saturday’s second semifinal.

An emphatic breakaway dunk by Jimmy King gave the United States a 62-52 lead with 6:21 left, but Russia fought back. Babkov hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the score, 64-64, with 1:23 on the clock.

The United States missed trey attempts on consecutive trips up the court and then Hawkins was whistled for an offensive foul with 10 seconds remaining. Karassev inbounded the ball to Panov (7 points), who dribbled through the U.S. defense for the winner.

Jason Sasser’s off-balance jumper off the glass at the buzzer _ his only shot of the first half _ gave the United States a 39-37 lead at the break. It was the Americans’ first lead since the opening minutes of the game.

Greece hasn’t captured a medal at a major event since it hosted and won 1987 European championship. That tournament was also the last time it defeated Yugoslavia.

The Yugoslavians were 70-62 winners Friday over Argentina, while Greece reached the medal round by holding on for a 69-62 victory over Spain.

Elsewhere Saturday, in games to determine fifth through eighth places, Italy defeated Lithuania 76-71, while Spain beat Argentina 77-64. Also, Australia edged Brazil 79-75 to take ninth place and Puerto Rico beat Canada 92-81 for 11th.

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