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SYDNEY 2000 / SUMMER OLYMPIC GAMES | Sport By Sport
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Italy Stages Fantastic Finish

September 17, 2000|From Associated Press

The pile of bodies at midcourt looked like the end of an NCAA tournament first-round game.

Today it was Italy, not Valparaiso, jumping on each other and it was the Olympics, not March Madness.

Andrea Meneghin's three-point basket with 25 seconds to play--his only points of the game--gave Italy a 50-48 victory over Lithuania and the celebration capped a tense, possession-by-possession game between the teams most consider the second and third best in Group A behind the United States.

"The first game is always the most important. That's why we're so happy," said Italy's Carlton Myers, who had nine points in a foul-plagued 22 minutes. "It was very tense, close and ugly, but at the end we won it and that's what's important."

Meneghin--the son of Dino Meneghin, who is considered the greatest player in Italy's history and is an assistant coach--had missed all six shots he had taken (including two three-pointers) in the previous 45 seconds.

But he made the one that counted and when Lithuania misfired on two three-point shots in the final 12 seconds, Italy won its first Olympic game since 1984 when Dino Meneghin was the star of the team.

Italy shot 32.6% (15 of 46) as Lithuania managed a 13-of-50 effort (26%).

France 76, New Zealand 50--France, making its first appearance in men's Olympic basketball since 1984, used its speed advantage to pull away from New Zealand.

Yann Bonato and Cyril Julian each had eight points in a 26-4 run that gave France a 35-19 lead with 2:32 left in the first half.

France held New Zealand to one field goal during that stretch as it overcame a six-point deficit and the rout was on.

Bonato finished with 16 points and Julian 12 for France.

Sean Marks, who played at the University of California and for the NBA's Toronto Raptors, had 12 points to lead New Zealand, making its first appearance in the basketball competition.

Yugoslavia 66, Russia 60--Zeljko Rebraca scored 18 points and fellow center Dejean Tomasevic added 13 as Yugoslavia took advantage of Russian center Sergei Panov's foul trouble in the second half.

Russia's last lead was 36-34 with 15:48 left when Panov went to the bench with his third foul. Rebraca and Tomasevic combined for 10 points in a 12-2 run that gave Yugoslavia the lead for good.

Panov, who finished with 13 points, fouled out with 5:08 to play and Russia trailing, 58-48. Russia never got closer than six points after that.

Predrag Danilovic, who played for the Miami Heat, added 14 points for Yugoslavia.

WOMEN

Australia 78, Canada 46--The host country held Canada to 25% shooting (seven for 28) and blocked seven shots as it took a 40-19 halftime lead. Canada managed only one field goal over the final 4:50 of the half as Australia closed with a 15-2 run. Sandy Brondello scored six of the final eight points.

Brondello and Lauren Jackson each had 18 points to lead Australia, the bronze medalists in 1996.

Stacey Dales, who plays at the Oklahoma, and Tammy Sutton-Brown, who plays at Rutgers, each had 13 points for Canada.

Russia 72, Cuba 62--Russia, perhaps the biggest threat to the U.S. women, trailed by three points after the first 10 minutes before going on to win.

The veteran Russian team fought back to take a five-point lead at halftime, and stretched that to 15 points. Cuba, a talented but undisciplined team, made several runs at its opponents, twice narrowing the gap to seven points.

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