U.S. Beats Mexico by 27 in Olympic Qualifier

LAS VEGAS -- Nolan Richardson yelled, gestured and stomped around just like it was a national championship game.

Mike Krzyzewski was on the other bench with his usual intense stare.

The setting was different from the last meeting between the coaches, but one thing hadn't changed: Richardson's teams still fight for 40 minutes.

Mexico kept the game respectable into the second half before the United States pulled away for a 127-100 victory Monday night in the second round of the FIBA Americas tournament.

"I was talking to Nolan before the game and he said his team was in great shape, and they were," Krzyzewski said. "They kept making shots no matter how many we went up. They never gave up. They just kept making shots and that's to their credit."

Carmelo Anthony scored 28 points, tying the American record in an Olympic qualifier. He had 16 in a sensational opening quarter, when the Americans shot 80 percent from the field.

But the Mexicans, who sneaked into the second round through a three-team tiebreaker, outplayed their more talented counterparts for much of the next two periods before the U.S. put them away for good late in the third.

"I'm not into moral victories, but I am into the fact we came back and played extremely hard that second quarter, and that's how my teams have always been," Richardson said. "We never give up and that's why they call it "40 minutes of Hell."

Mexico rarely showed the pressure defensive style the Richardson used at Arkansas, but hustled for offensive rebounds and shot 15-of-28 from 3-point range to hang around.

Kobe Bryant added 21 points, and LeBron James and Dwight Howard had 19 apiece for the United States, which led by only 15 points midway through the third quarter after beating its first four opponents by 48.4 points per game. The Americans face Puerto Rico on Tuesday night.

"They kept playing hard," Anthony said. "The Mexico team never gave up, they fought all the way to the end.

"We've been beating teams by 40, 50 points, so when we win by 20, 25, it don't look right. But at the same time, it was an ugly win but we take it and we're going to get better. I guarantee we're going to get better and be ready for tomorrow."

Romel Beck, who played for UNLV, scored 20 points for Mexico, which plays Brazil on Tuesday.

Richardson beat Krzyzewski for the 1994 national championship when Arkansas edged Duke, but had little hope of winning this matchup. Still, he didn't coach any differently.

Richardson, his hair and mustache now gray, could easily be heard hollering instructions at his players over a Thomas & Mack Center crowd of just 4,028, and gestured frequently during a lengthy discussion with a referee moments after Howard had knocked a pair of Mexican players to the ground late in the first half.

Richardson chatted with Krzyzewski and U.S. assistant Jim Boeheim, another NCAA champion, before the game. But it wasn't long before Richardson had little to smile about.

Krzyzewski made a pair of changes to his starting lineup, going with Chauncey Billups over Jason Kidd and replacing Howard with Amare Stoudemire. It didn't affect the Americans at the start.

Anthony's dunk capped a 17-2 run that gave the Americans a 35-14 lead with a little more than 2½ minutes left in the first quarter. The U.S. made 14 of its first 16 shots before finishing at 16-for-20, taking a 45-23 lead into the second.

However, Mexico outscored the United States 28-20 in the second to make it 65-51 at the break. The smallest U.S. halftime lead had been 19 points Sunday against Brazil. The Americans pulled comfortably ahead early in the third, but Mexico battled back again, pulling to 82-67 on Victor Mariscal's 3-pointer with 4:45 remaining.

"Today was one of those days for us, we've been playing five of the last six days, we were going through the motions a little bit at first," James said. "They're definitely a good team. Nolan Richardson's definitely put together a good team and they shoot the ball really well."

The Americans eventually broke away for good, but the Mexicans still had one last highlight. Beck, who came in as the tournament's No. 2 scorer with 22.8 points per game, had a four-point play late in the third after Bryant fouled him on a 3-pointer.

Anthony, who set the U.S. record for a world championships game last summer with 35 points against Italy, equaled Denver Nuggets teammate Allen Iverson's 28-point night from the '03 qualifier.

The Americans played without reserve Tayshaun Prince, who sprained his ankle Sunday against Brazil.

Krzyzewski said Prince would play Tuesday and that the normal lineup would return.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service


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