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ATLANTA 1996 OLYMPICS | BASKETBALL

Australian Women Leave Russia Stunned

August 01, 1996|Times Wire Services

Much like their male counterparts one day earlier, the Australian women pulled off an upset to guarantee their best Olympic finish ever, beating Russia, 74-70, in overtime.

The Australian men beat Croatia on Tuesday. Ironically, both will meet gold-medal favorite teams from the United States in the semifinals.

In the other women's quarterfinals, Ukraine beat Italy, 59-50, and Brazil defeated Cuba, 101-69, to set up the other semifinal.

Australia's women made eight of nine free throws in overtime and came up with some big defensive stops in the final two minutes, limiting Russia to one field goal in its last five possessions.

Jennifer Whittle's three-point play gave Australia the lead for good at 69-68 with 2:52 to play and it was all free throws and defense from there.

Neither team led by more than three points during the final 10 minutes of the second half and the overtime.

Russia, which tied the game, 64-64, with 19 seconds left, converted on only one of its final five possessions in overtime.

"I went through so many emotions," Australia forward Rachel Sporn said. "One minute I was up, one minute I was down."

"There is no love lost between the teams. It was quite physical," said Australian guard Sandy Brondello, noting that two weeks ago in Toronto they played an even rougher exhibition game.

There was no traditional handshake between the two teams after the game.

Michelle Brogan led Australia with 17 points.

"This was a tough game with a lot of pressure and it was a game we had to win," Whittle said. "But I guess there won't be that much pressure against the U.S. because we'll be going in as underdogs."

The U.S. women beat Australia, 96-79, in the preliminary round and three times in a tournament in Australia in May.

Australia's best Olympic finish was fourth in 1988, its last appearance.

Meanwhile, Brazil opened its game with an 18-3 run as all five starters went on to score in double figures. Cuba missed nine of its first 10 shots from the field and never recovered, falling behind, 37-9, with 9:12 to play in the first half.

Maria Paula Silva and Janeth Arcain each had 19 points for Brazil, including six apiece in the opening run. Marta Sobral added 18 points, Hortencia Oliva had 17 and Alessandra Oliveira 10.

Hortencia had sat out Brazil's last two games because of a sprained left ankle.

Against Italy, Lyudmila Nazarenko scored 16 points to lead Ukraine to the semifinals in its Olympic basketball debut.

Ukraine led, 25-22, after a first half in which both teams shot poorly. Ukraine, however, finally got going in the second half, using a 15-6 run to take a 40-28 lead with 12:42 to play. Italy continued to struggle, and Ukraine led by as much as 58-37 with 3:59 left before Italy closed with a 13-1 run to make the final score respectable.

Yelena Zhirko added 15 points and 15 rebounds for Ukraine, which finished 25 for 56 from the field (45%). Catarina Pollini had 13 points for Italy, which shot only 30%.

In classification play, China beat Zaire, 91-67, and South Korea downed Canada, 88-79.

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