September 25, 2000

Nash wills Canada to upset win over Yugoslavia

Sept. 25, 2000

SYDNEY, Australia (CP) - Canada stormed into the quarterfinals of the Olympic men's basketball tournament today, shocking world-champion Yugoslavia 83-75 to finish first in its group and continue its remarkable run at the Games.

Steve Nash, despite playing with a deep bruise on his left knee, willed his team to another level. The former Santa Clara star and current Dallas Mavericks point guard led Canada with 26 points, adding eight assists and eight rebounds.

''This is the biggest win ever for us,'' the Victoria native said. ''It's the biggest win ever for me.'' Nash called it the best game he had ever played in his life.

''Hopefully all the kids at home really enjoyed the win and hopefully it made them proud to be Canadian,'' Nash said. ''And I hope all the basketball players will be proud to be Canadian basketball players because there's not always been that source of pride.''

The Canadians, in their first appearance in the Olympics since the 1988 Games in Seoul, finished the round-robin portion of the tournament at 4-1 and will face France, the fourth-place finisher in Group A, in Thursday's quarterfinals.

The French dropped to 2-3 after a 106-94 loss to the Americans earlier on Monday.

''The one thing that we've always wanted to do is show that we could play with the best teams in the world,'' said head coach Jay Triano, a former player with the national team. ''Doing it here at the Olympics, we're starting to show people that.''

Canada controlled its own fate with the victory, knowing a loss could have dropped it into fourth place and a quarterfinal date with the Americans.

Basketball's governing body, FIBA, issued a news release Saturday declaring Canada tied with Australia and Russia at 3-2 - already assuming that the Canadians, 3-1 at the time, would lose to Yugoslavia. That infuriated Triano.

''There is no three-way tie and that was great motivation,'' Triano said. ''They showed no respect for us in the fact that we still had a game to play.''

Canada trailed 42-33 at the half but refused to give up, mostly due to Nash's perseverance. And the crowd at The Dome, sensing something special, began to get behind the Canadians midway through the second half.

Canada finally pulled even at 65-65 on a Nash three-pointer with six minutes left. Yugoslavia responded with a three-pointer of its own moments later but Nash ran down the court and knocked down one of his own to make it 68-68 with 5:30 left.

Yugoslavia was up 73-72 with 1:57 left but Canada put together an 11-2 run to finish the game as centre Todd MacCulloch of the Philadelphia 76ers pulled down two key rebounds in the late stages.

''I told them this would be the biggest game in the history of our country, and I told that there would be a lot of Canadians up late watching this game, so let's not let them down,'' Triano said.

''I told them they can enjoy it for one day then we have to get ready for France. That will be the biggest game in the history of our country.''

MacCulloch, from Winnipeg, had 21 points despite not starting and played the best game of his young career.

''We're really just putting ourselves in a better position,'' MacCulloch said. ''We're just going to ride this wave.''

Mike Meeks of Brampton, Ont., added 12 points while Sherman Hamilton of Toronto had 10.

''This is definitely the biggest win that we've ever had,'' said veteran guard Rowan Barrett. ''Hopefully it's not the last.''

Yugoslavia, which won the 1998 world title in Athens, finished second in the pool at 4-1 and will face Lithuania in the quarter-finals.

Canada, 12th at the 1998 worlds, hasn't won a medal in men's basketball since a silver at the 1936 Berlin Games.


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OLYMPIC MENS BASKETBALL STANDINGS
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As of Sept. 25

GROUP A ------- W L - - United States 5 0 Italy 3 2 Lithuania 3 2 France 2 3 China 2 3 New Zealand 0 5

GROUP B ------- W L - - Canada 4 1 Yugoslavia 4 1 Australia 3 2 Russia 3 2 Spain 1 4 Angola 0 5

Note: The top four teams in each group after preliminary round-robin competition advance to the quarterfinals.

Sunday September 17th Results ------------------------------

France 76 New Zealand 50 Italy 50 Lithuania 48 Yugoslavia 66 Russia 60 Canada 101 Australia 90 Spain 64 Angola 45 United States 119 China 72

Tuesday September 19th Results -------------------------------

Canada 99 Angola 54 China 75 New Zealand 60 Russia 71 Spain 63 United States 93 Italy 61 Lithuania 81 France 63 Yugoslavia 80 Australia 66

Thursday September 21st Results --------------------------------

Italy 78 New Zealand 66 Canada 91 Spain 77 France 82 China 70 United States 85 Lithuania 76 Yugoslavia 73 Angola 64 Australia 75 Russia 71

Saturday September 23rd Results --------------------------------

Lithuania 82 China 66 Yugoslavia 78 Spain 65 Russia 77 Canada 59 Australia 86 Angola 75 United States 102 New Zealand 56 Italy 67 France 57

Monday September 25th Schedule -------------------------------

Russia 88 Angola 65 Lithuania 85 New Zealand 75 China 85 Italy 76 United States 106 France 94 Canada 83 Yugoslavia 75 Australia 91 Spain 80