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OLYMPIC QUALIFYING

U.S. Avoids Fight and Earns a Berth in Athens

August 31, 2003|From Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The United States qualified for the Olympics without throwing any punches, getting hit by any debris or blowing a huge lead -- but just barely in all three cases.

In a game marred by an altercation between Tracy McGrady and Eddie Casiano, the United States defeated Puerto Rico, 87-71, Saturday night at the Tournament of the Americas.

Also qualifying for the Athens Olympics was Argentina, which defeated Canada, 88-72, behind 26 points from Manu Ginobili.

The U.S. team's victory was fairly easy, too, but it almost got real ugly.

A pushing and shoving match broke out between McGrady and Casiano at the end of the first half. It was broken up by players and coaches from both teams as fans tossed drinks onto the court. Both teams left the court peacefully, and there were no further altercations.

Puerto Rico had an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter and eventually pulled to within 81-71 with a little more than four minutes remaining on a drive by Carlos Arroyo, but Puerto Rico did not score again.

"The game was getting out of hand and we lost our poise," U.S. Coach Larry Brown said. "We're disappointed with the way things turned out, but we won and we're going to Greece and we have to finish this thing tomorrow."

The United States and Argentina will play in the gold medal game Sunday and a third Olympic berth will go to the winner of the third-place game between Puerto Rico and Canada.

Ray Allen, who started for injured guard Allen Iverson (sprained thumb) scored 15 points and Jermaine O'Neal had 14 points and 10 rebounds for the U.S.

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