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U.S. gets tested by Australia

It was not really a close call, but it resembled one: The U.S. men's basketball team met an opponent that didn't go down easily.

In a game with nasty exchanges, a near-fight and plenty of raw emotion, the Americans defeated the Australian Olympic team 89-64 Saturday night.

"You could feel the intensity in the air at the beginning of the game," Alonzo Mourning said.

The tone was set seconds in when Australia's Andrew Gaze took down the United States' Vince Carter. A heated exchange followed _ no punches were thrown _ and the Australians refused to back down for much of the rest of the night.

The Americans led by seven at halftime and had their lead cut to two a couple of minutes into the second half. But the U.S. team then turned to its strengths _ speed and depth _ to prevent Australia from coming up with what would have been a huge upset.

"This game was something different," said Ray Allen, who led the Americans with 14 points. "We needed to know going into Sydney that there are teams out there that can play basketball. Tonight, we learned that early."

The final score did not accurately indicate the level of competitiveness in the game, the final pre-Olympic tuneup for both teams. The Sydney Games begin Friday.

DIVING: Former Cuban star Arturo Miranda asked the International Olympic Committee today to reverse its decision to bar him from competing for Canada. The decision against Miranda, 29, now a Canadian citizen, came after Cuba filed a complaint.

TRACK AND FIELD: A British runner who tested positive for steroids quit the team today, and track's ruling body agreed to postpone his arbitration hearing until after the Games. Mark Richardson, the 400-meter national champion, was found with nandralone in his system in October 1999. He as cleared by UK Athletics in July. But the IAAF declined to accept the ruling and ordered Richardson to an arbitration hearing. Richardson, who has maintained his innocence, said he was "gutted by the withdrawal." Cuba's Javier Sotomayor, the world record holder in the high jump, leaped 7 feet, 5} inches to place third at the Taiyo Giken Track and Field Meet at Yokohama, Japan, the last tuneup before the Olympics. Russian Vyacheslav Voronin won with a jump of 7-7}. In the pole vault, world record-holder Sergei Bubka failed three times on his initial attempt at 18-{. South African Okkert Brits won at 18-8{.

TRIATHLON: The course, which starts and finishes on the plaza in front of Sydney's Opera House, got its first workout this morning, as did the "sharkpod," which sends out low frequency electromagnetic shocks to repel sharks.

The devices were strapped to five divers who escorted the triathletes throughout the harbor and will do the same during the Games. A 2-pound yellow and black sharkpod box was attached to each diver's oxygen tank, and a transmitter was strapped to the right fin of each.

"There are no sharks in the harbor; there never have been," said David Moore, a Sydney high school student volunteering as a diver. "It's all a total joke."

The last reported shark attack in Sydney Harbor was two years ago. The last fatal attack was in 1963.

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