BEIJING --- This is what goes down as a "tough test" for the U.S. squad of NBA All-Stars: A five-point lead in the second quarter that turned to 12 by halftime ... and was never close again.
"Sooner or later we'll impose our will," U.S. point guard Chris Paul said. "I don't know if you can keep up with us for 40 minutes."
Australia sure couldn't. After a tight game into the fourth quarter on Aug. 5, the Aussies hung with the Americans until the middle of the second quarter but that was it. Kobe Bryant scored nine points during a 14-0 surge to open the second half and the only question after that was how much they would win by. It wound up being 31 points, 116-85.
Next up will be Manu Gin-obili and defending champion Argentina on Friday night, with a spot in the gold-medal game going to the winner. The Argentines beat Greece 80-78, with the Greeks missing a potential winning 3-pointer in the final few seconds.
BASEBALL : The U.S. went to extra innings against Japan but pulled out a win.
Brian Barden singled in the go-ahead run to break a scoreless tie in the 11th inning on the way to a 4-2 victory. The Americans earned the third seed in Friday's medal round, with the Japanese getting fourth.
The U.S. will play defending champion Cuba.
DIVING: Now comes the tough part for China: The 10-meter platform, the one event the Chinese didn't win at the two previous Olympics.
They're off to a good start this time, with teenagers Chen Ruolin and Wang Xin leading the women's standings in preliminaries.
Attempting to avoid a second consecutive shutout in the diving medals for the United States, Laura Wilkinson was fifth after completing the second-best dive of the opening round. She won this event in Sydney and the Americans have not won a medal in diving since.
CYCLING: Remember the spark snowboard cross put into the Winter Games in Turin? Maybe bicycle motorcross -- BMX, to those in the know -- will do the same.
American racers Mike Day and Kyle Bennett gave the crowd a great introduction to the sport, with Day winning the time trial and each of his three quarterfinal heats and Bennett advancing but also dislocating his left shoulder in a wreck on his final heat.
Top-ranked racer Donny Robinson also moved on, as did Jill Kintner, the lone American in the 16-racer women's field.
WRESTLING: Former NCAA champion Ben Askren, who promised a gold medal, lost in freestyle's 74-kilogram round of 16, ending his Olympics after two matches. The gold ended up around the same neck it has been placed at the past two Olympics -- Buvaysa Saytiev, of Russia.
"I lost -- I don't know what to say, my dreams are crushed," said Askren, who cut the hair he'd been growing for two years because he feared having it pulled.
MEN'S VOLLEYBALL: The U.S. men beat Serbia, remaining undefeated and earning a spot in the semifinals against Russia.
Brazil plays Italy in the other semifinal match on Friday.
MEN'S WATER POLO: The U.S. squad knows who it will be playing in the semifinals: Serbia. The other semi will pit reigning European champs Montenegro against two-time defending Olym-pic gold medalist Hungary.
Serbia beat Spain to advance. Montenegro moved on by upsetting Croatia, which came in as the world's No. 1 team.
KAYAK: American Rami Zur failed to qualify for the finals of the men's 1,000-meter single kayak (K-1).
China added three boats to the finals, with the 1,000-meter canoe double team, the 1,000 K-2 and the 1,000 K-4 all qualifying.
MEN'S BEACH VOLLEYBALL: The stunning loss in the tournament opener seems like ancient history for Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers, especially now that the Americans are playing for the gold medal.
The guys needed only 41 minutes to eliminate Georgia in straight sets in the semifinals, then watched Brazil's No. 2 team beat its best, the Athens gold medalists.
BOXING: British middleweight James Degale defeated former Olympic champion Bakhtiyar Artayev, of Kazakhstan, to clinch Britain's third boxing medal, while Vijender Kumar clinched the first boxing medal in India's history.
Cuba's last two fighters also reached the semifinals with one-sided victories, guaranteeing a whopping eight medals for the sport's now-unquestioned power.
WOMEN'S FIELD HOCKEY: The U.S. had a chance to finish seventh. It didn't happen.
At least it took two extra periods before Spain beat the Americans.
SAILING: China found another sport to pad its gold-medal count, getting its first ever victory in sailing when windsurfer Yin Jian claimed the women's RS:X class. Yin won silver four years ago.
New Zealand's Tom Ashley won the men's RS:X.
OPEN-WATER SWIMMING: Larisa Ilchenko, of Russia, drafted behind the leading British duo most of the 6.2-mile race, then sprinted to a gold medal in the final 50 meters (yards).
SYNCHRONIZED SWIMMING: Call them A-2. Or, Anastasia Squared.
Or just say that the Russian synchronized swimming duo of Anastasia Davydova and Anastasia Ermakova have repeated as Olympic champions. The pair received all perfect 10s for technical merit on their free routine.
"We waited four years for this gold and a whole row of 10s was our crowning achievement," Ermakova said.
The Americans were fifth.
TABLE TENNIS: All three members of the Chinese squad advanced easily in women's singles competition, especially Zhang Yining, the defending gold medalist and top-ranked player in the world.
Two U.S. players -- Gao Jun and Wang Chen -- also stayed alive.
MEN'S HANDBALL: Croatia's gold-medal defense reached the semifinals with a victory over Denmark. The Croats will next play the French, who beat Russia.
Iceland will play Spain in the other semifinal. Iceland defeated Poland and Spain beat South Korea.