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U.S. women shake off nerves, Cuba

Published Sep. 16, 2005

After winning all of its 52 games over the past year, you would think nothing would unnerve the U.S. women's Olympic basketball team.

Except a little home cooking.

The pressure of playing in front of family and friends as the host country momentarily rattled the Americans in their Olympic debut, but they finished with a 101-84 victory over Cuba on Sunday at Morehouse College.

In front of a capacity crowd of 4,869 that included Magic Johnson, Scottie Pippen and George Steinbrenner, there were plenty of heavy-thumping hearts in the huddle at the start of the game.

"I didn't see a lot of relaxed players out there early," U.S. coach Tara VanDerveer said. "It's kind of hard to relax at the Olympics."

But the Americans finally did. They turned a 20-13 deficit in the opening 6:35 into a 54-44 halftime lead.

Center Lisa Leslie led the United States with a game-high 24 points and seven rebounds. She had 17 points in the second half after bumping heads with a Cuban in the first half.

It wasn't Leslie, though, who turned around the shaky American fortunes. Venus Lacey and Rebecca Lobo came off the bench to score eight points each, and Lobo had six rebounds and Lacey five.

BRAZIL 69, CANADA 56: Brazil's quickness and athleticism were too much for Canada, which shot only 34 percent and committed 20 turnovers. Maria Paula Silva and Janeth Arcain led Brazil with 17 points each.

UKRAINE 81, ZAIRE 65: Marina Tkachenko scored 27 points for Ukraine in the first appearance for both countries in the Summer Games. Tkachenko scored five points and Ukraine built a 45-36 lead with a 15-2 run in the final 4:08 of the first half.

RUSSIA 73, JAPAN 63: Yelena Baranova had 21 points and 13 rebounds for Russia, which used its size advantage to outrebound Japan 45-31.

AUSTRALIA 76, KOREA 61: Rachel Sporn had 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Australia, which is expected to contend for a medal. Down 37-34 at halftime, Australia began the second half with a 21-9 run to take control.

ITALY 62, CHINA 53: Italy, which lost to the United States by 40 points in Indianapolis a week ago, dumped one of the medal favorites. Nicolletta Caselin scored 16 points to lead Italy. China's 6-foot-9 Zheng Haixia wasn't a factor, finishing with eight points and five rebounds.

Saturday's late men's game

UNITED STATES 96, ARGENTINA 68: Argentina was within two points at halftime and within 13 with 5:07 to play before bowing to the Americans, who fell 40 points short of the original Dream Team's 68-point victory in Barcelona.