U.S. withstands tough challenge

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SHANGHAI, China --- They couldn't shoot and occasionally didn't defend. It's definitely a performance the Americans should be relieved came before Beijing.

Undefeated, but no longer unchallenged, the U.S. Olympic basketball team wrapped up its exhibition schedule with its toughest test, pulling away to beat Australia 87-76 on Tuesday.

The United States led by only four points nearly halfway through the third quarter and was up by seven midway through the fourth against an Australian team that was resting its best player, Milwaukee Bucks center Andrew Bogut.

The U.S. players still feel like gold medal favorites, but they hardly looked like locks.

"Nothing alarming for us. It's alarming when you lose," Dwyane Wade said. "We're still growing. We're still going to get better as each game goes on, but I think tonight we learned something."

The Americans relied on an aggressive defensive effort to overcome a horrendous night from 3-point range and the free-throw line, the same areas that proved costly in their semifinal loss to Greece in the world championships two years ago.

Wade scored 22 points and LeBron James had 16 for the Americans, who finished 3-of-18 from behind the arc and 20-of-33 (61 percent) at the foul line.

The Americans seemed in control after allowing one basket in the final 51/2 minutes of the first half to open a 44-29 lead. But they left their defensive intensity in the locker room, allowing a number of open 3-pointers and uncontested drives to the basket afterward.

"We just broke down," James said.


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