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Australia Upset in Opener

September 18, 2000|ROBYN NORWOOD | From Staff and Wire Reports

Andrew Gaze scored, and the mates in the stands decked out in yellow and green broke into song: "Andrew Gaze walks on water, fa-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la."

An hour or so later, the Australian basketball team seemed very mortal, upset by Canada in its opening game as Australia seeks to win an Olympic medal in men's basketball for the first time.

"We're very disappointed," said Gaze, the Australian flagbearer and former Seton Hall star playing in his fifth Olympics at 35.

Canada's 101-90 victory Sunday at the Dome in front of 8,353 fans--most of them cheering on the Boomers, as the team is nicknamed--was one of two upsets on the first day of men's basketball, along with Italy's victory over Lithuania.

"This loss means a great deal," said Andrew Vlahov, the former Stanford player. "Hopefully we can win the remaining games and it will sort itself out."

It was a dramatic victory for the Canadians, playing in the Olympics for the first time since 1988.

"This is a lot of vindication and redemption," said Steve Nash, the Dallas Maverick guard who was part of a more resounding upset as a college player--Santa Clara's 1993 NCAA tournament victory over Arizona.

Michael Meeks, a former Canisius star who plays in France, scored 27 points off the bench for Canada. Nash had 15 points and 15 assists.

"Fifteen assists in international basketball, that is off-limits," Gaze said. "He just controlled the game."

The Canadians don't have two of their better-known players, the Lakers' Rick Fox or former Kentucky center Jamaal Magloire, but in addition to Nash they have Todd MacCulloch, a 7-footer who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers, and Rowan Barrett, a former St. John's player who plays professionally in Venezuela.

Australia has two NBA 7-footers, Luc Longley of the Phoenix Suns and Chris Anstey, who played for the Chicago Bulls last season and previously for the Mavericks, where he was a teammate of Nash.

"I feel for him a little bit," Nash said. "I know how it must feel to play in your own country and lose."

Afterward, U.S. point guard Jason Kidd was less kind, taking a few shots at the Australians.

"There's been guys who have come from Australia to play in the NBA and there's been a lot of hoo ha when they first arrive but they don't last too long and they don't get off the bench," Kidd said.

While Kidd did not name the players, a check of the Australian roster showed that three of the starting lineup--Gaze, Shane Heal and Mark Bradtke--and reserve center Paul Rogers had short stints in the NBA.

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