Originally created 08/01/98

U.S., Yugoslavia tally big wins



ATHENS, Greece -- It still doesn't feel like a world championship, and few of the 250 fans who saw the United States beat South Korea 88-62 Friday could disagree.

Nor would the several hundred at tournament-favorite Yugoslavia's 99-54 victory over Japan.

As the three-day preliminary round ended Friday, only homestanding Greece has drawn near-sellout crowds in the 18,000-seat and 14,000-seat arenas here and everyone knows why: There's No You-Know-What Team.

"I think that will change as this thing goes on," United States coach Rudy Tomjanovich said. "I scouted the worlds in Toronto in '94 and some of the games were like this.

"That's something you have to deal with. You've got to make your own excitement to keep yourself up."

After a two-point loss Thursday to Lithuania, any victory was welcome for the makeshift Americans (2-1), who were led by Jason Sasser with 17 points against the tournament's smallest team.

`It's the first time I played against a team that was that small since I was in high school," 6-foot-9 David Wood said.

Moon Kyung Eun, a 6-2 guard, led Korean (0-3) with 14 points.

With second-round play beginning Sunday, Lithuania, Yugoslavia, Greece and Spain got through the first round undefeated and must be the favorites in a wide-open field.

The top three from each group advance to the round-robin second round, forming two new six-team brackets. Four countries from each will move on to the quarterfinals.

In key games Sunday, it is Yugoslavia vs. Canada, Russia vs. Italy, Puerto Rico vs. Greece, Australia vs. Lithuania, United States vs. Argentina and Spain vs. Brazil.

Lithuania (3-0) trailed by as many as 14 in the first half against Brazil (1-2) but survived 66-62. Former Seton Hall star Arturas Karnisovas had 20 and Saulius Sombergas added 18 as the Lithuanians were feeling a letdown after the emotional victory over the United States.

"We won today so I can't say we're tired mentally. But playing like we did yesterday and then staying up until 3 a.m. to watch the game on television tired us physically," Lithuanian coach Jonas Kazlauskas said. "We spent a lot of emotion."

Yugoslavia (3-0) routed winless Japan 99-54 as Sasha Obradovic and Dragan Lukovsi had 18 points. The 1990 world champions hit 14-of-22 3-point shots.

"My goal was to build an early lead after playing two rough games with Russia and Puerto Rico," Yugoslav coach Zeljko Obradovic said.

Russia (2-1) defeated Puerto Rico 86-73 as Vassily Karassev scored 17. Puerto Rico (1-2) led 54-45 with 15:21 left in the game, but scored just one field goal over the final seven minutes as Russia went on a 15-2 run.

Veteran center Jose Ortiz led Puerto Rico with 18 points and 15 rebounds before fouling out.

Italy (2-1) defeated Canada (1-2) 79-69. Italy's top player, Carlton Myers, played for the first time in the tournament. The guard, who was sidelined by a fever and sore throat, scored 11 points in 24 minutes.

Australia (1-2) -- Goodwill Games silver medalists -- limped into the next round by holding off Nigeria 70-64 behind 24 points from Shane Heal and 20 from Andrew Gaze. Dallas Mavericks center Chris Anstey, the only NBA player in the worlds, contributed 13 points and nine rebounds.

Nigeria (0-3) played without center Julius Nwosu, who was suspended from the tournament earlier Friday by FIBA because he tested positive for the banned substance ephedrine. Nwosu, who had a brief pro career in the NBA and CBA, was tested after Nigeria's loss to Spain on Wednesday, the event's opening day.

Spain (3-0) won in overtime over Argentina 68-67 as Alfonso Reyes scored an inside basket at the gun off a pass from Ignacio Rodriguez. Alberto Herreros led Spain with 21 and Rodriguez has 18. Argentina (2-1), which trailed 31-22 at half, was led by Hugo Sconochini's 17.

Greece (3-0) defeated Senegal (0-3) 68-57 as Dimitris Papanikolaou, Georgios Sigalas and Angelos Koronios had 11 each. Senegal led 30-29 at halftime, but broke the game open with a 17-5 run to start the second half.