Puerto Rico 84, United States 76
NEW YORK (AP) _ This is no Dream Team.
Puerto Rico’s experience and fan support at Madison Square Garden overwhelmed the youth of the United States 84-76 in their Goodwill Games basketball opener Sunday.
Home-country advantage was of little help to the United States, as the crowd favored the defending Goodwill champions by a 2-1 margin, helping to boost them to a huge second-half rally.
Eddie Casiano scored 26 of his 31 points in the second half for Puerto Rico, which trailed 55-36 with 15 1/2 minutes left, then outscored the American college players 48-21 the rest of the way. Jose Ortiz, a Utah Jazz player from 1988-90, scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half.
Casiano, Ortiz and Jerome Mincy, who played for Alabama-Birmingham in the 1980s, are the nucleus of a Puerto Rican team that has played together internationally for the entire decade. The U.S. college players were in junior high school when the bulk of Puerto Rico’s team started playing together, and the Americans came together as a team only last week.
Elton Brand of Duke was the only consistent performer for the United States, scoring 24 points. The only other U.S. player in double figures was Wally Szczerbiak of Miami-Ohio, who scored 12 points.
Andre Miller of Utah and Khalid El-Amin of Connecticut were repeatedly thwarted on drives to the basket in the second half as Puerto Rico tightened its inside defense, then let Casiano lead the way offensively.
Miller, who led Utah to the Final Four this year, was 1-for-9 from the field, and El-Amin was 2-for-8.