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Teen dream team

United States wins Goodwill gold in overtime

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Posted: Sunday August 16, 1998 03:12 PM

NEW YORK (CNN/SI) -- No NBA. No CBA. No Euro stars. No problem.

A team of 12 college players -- a far cry from the rosters crammed with NBA superstars that have represented the United States in other major international competitions -- reclaimed Goodwill Games gold Friday night with a 93-85 overtime victory over Australia.

"Coming into this we had to be the third or four pick at best because of our lack of experience," United States coach Clem Haskins of Minnesota said. "It's not easy for kids 18 to 21 to go against a team of players 22 to 35. This team came together. They all put away the I's and became a team."

Andre Miller of Utah took command down the stretch for the United States, which hadn't won a Goodwill basketball gold medal since the inaugural games in 1986. It was the first major international men's title for a U.S. amateur team since that year, when the world championships and Goodwill Games were held simultaneously.

The final victory didn't come easy for this U.S. team, but nothing did the whole tournament.

"When we first got here it was really difficult to adapt to Coach Haskins' system," Miller said. "We weren't prepared at first for the way we would be attacked by these teams and it was a lack of preparation for us. All we can do is sit here and smile."

Miller, who led the Utes to the Final Four in March, scored 10 of his 18 points in the final four minutes of regulation and the overtime. He tied the game with the final basket of regulation with 1:08 left, and scored the first basket of overtime, 25 seconds in.

The United States never gave up that lead.

"All I could think of was that gold medal," Miller said. "I picked up my defense, they made some turnovers and missed some 3s and we were able to capitalize on it."

Wally Szczerbiak of Miami of Ohio and Elton Brand of Duke each had 15 points for the United States and James Posey of Xavier added 13.

Australia was led by its veteran backcourt of Shane Heal, who had 38 points, and Andrew Gaze, who had 25. The Australians' 3-point shooting kept Australia in front most of the way, but neither hit from beyond the arc in the final 6 1/2 minutes of regulation and overtime. Heal, who played with the Minnesota Timberwolves, finished with eight 3s, while Gaze, who led Seton Hall to the 1989 NCAA championship game, had three.

"You can't shoot from 26 feet at an 80 percent for a whole game; that's basketball," said Heal, who had all but two of his points in the opening 33 minutes. "For us to win Andrew and I had to step up and make big shots. I started out warm. It felt good to play well but to lose is hard and pretty disappointing."

Haskins credited his team with the late shooting problems of Gaze and Heal.

"I told these guys we had to keep the pressure on them for 40 minutes," Haskins said. "We kind of outlasted them."

The United States won the gold medal in the inaugural Goodwill Games in 1986, but that was followed by a silver in 1990 and a bronze in 1994. Those were all college teams, with the NBA pros making up gold-medal Dream Teams for the Olympics and world championships since 1992.

Australia had never done better than its fifth-place finish in 1990.

The United States had the last chance at a win in regulation after a wild final minute.

Miller, who scored the United States' last six points of regulation, stole the ball in the corner and drove the length of the court for a layup with 1:08 left that made it 79-79.

Heal let fly with a 3-point attempt with 37 seconds left on the game clock and three on the 30-second shot clock. He missed but Sam MacKinnon of Australia tapped the rebound out to Gaze who then stood and worked the clock down as the crowd of 9,673 chanted "U-S-A," letting fly a long 3 with seven seconds left. The U.S. team worked the ball downcourt and Miller's off-balance jumper at the buzzer missed.

The only loss for the United States came in the opening game when it blew a 19-point, second-half lead to Puerto Rico. Then came a tougher-than-expected win over China in which the U.S. team took control with an impressive closing 7 1/2 minutes.

The United States finally found its shooting touch during a 31-point win over Brazil in the final preliminary game and kept it up with an 89-76 semifinal victory over Lithuania.

"Sometimes you have to take that step back to go forward," Haskins said, referring to the opening loss. "It wasn't that everybody didn't want to win that game, it was that everybody tried to win it themself. They regrouped, refocused and that's why they're wearing those gold medals."  

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