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World Basketball Championship : Smith Sparks the U.S. to Win Over Soviets

July 21, 1986| Associated Press

MADRID — Kenny Smith scored 14 points in the second half, including what proved to be the winning basket with 15 seconds left, as the United States held off a late rally and beat the Soviet Union, 87-85, Sunday night to win the World Basketball Championship.

Smith, a 6-foot-3 guard from North Carolina, finished with a game-high 23 points as the Americans won their first world championship since 1954. U.S. center David Robinson had 20 points, 17 in the first half.

With the Americans leading, 85-83, Smith drove past 7-2 Soviet center Arvidas Sabonis and scored with 15 seconds left.

"I went in there twice before and dished off," Smith said. "This time Sabonis hesitated and I went in hard."

The Americans avenged a one-point loss to the Soviets in the final of the last world championships in Colombia in 1982.

This was a surprising tournament for the United States, which fielded a team of college players that averaged 20 years of age and with few big-name stars.

"It's a credit to these young players that they could come over here and give away all that experience and still win it," American Coach Lute Olson said after earlier describing just reaching the final game as a "minor miracle."

"I felt as long as we got to this point we would win it because they've thrived on pressure and big games," Olson said.

The United States finished with a 9-1 record in the two-week, round-robin tournament, losing only to Argentina. The Soviets won their previous nine games.

"The Americans played better," Soviet Coach Vladimir Obukhov said. "They have a young team and all possibilities ahead."

The Soviets, who never led in the game, trailed, 78-60, with 7:45 to play but could not pull closer than two points the rest of the way.

"Miracles don't happen twice," Obukhov said, referring to the Soviets' 91-90 overtime victory over Yugoslavia in the semifinals when they erased a nine-point defict with less than a minute to play.

The Soviets cut the lead to two twice in the final minute as the crowd of 9,300 chanted, "Russia, Russia."

Valdemaras Khomichus hit a three-point shot from the left corner to make it 85-83 with 50 seconds left.

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