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U.S. team earns spot in Athens

Wire services
Published August 31, 2003

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - The United States qualified for the Olympics without throwing any punches, getting hit by any debris or blowing a huge lead - but just barely in all three cases.

In a game marred by an altercation between Tracy McGrady and Eddie Casiano, the U.S. team defeated Puerto Rico 87-71 Saturday night at the Tournament of the Americas.

Also qualifying for the Athens Olympics was Argentina, which easily defeated Canada 88-72.

The U.S. team's victory was fairly easy too, but it almost got real ugly.

A shoving match broke out between McGrady and Casiano at the end of the first half. It was broken up by players and coaches from both teams as fans tossed drinks onto the court. Both teams left the court peacefully, and there were no altercations in the second half.

Puerto Rico went on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter and pulled within 81-71 with just over four minutes left on a drive by Carlos Arroyo but did not score again.

The United States and Argentina play in the gold-medal game tonight, and a third Olympic berth will go to the winner of the third-place game between Puerto Rico and Canada.

The U.S. team took the lead for good less than four minutes into the first quarter and was ahead 26-17 entering the second. Arroyo made it a five-point game at 36-31 with 4:22 left in the half, but a pair of Kenyon Martin dunks restored the lead to double digits 21/2 minutes before halftime.

Then the ugly stuff began.

With Casiano dribbling on the perimeter as Puerto Rico was holding the ball for a last shot, McGrady defended him physically. The play happened a few steps from a referee, who did not call a foul.

Casiano pointed at McGrady and yelled at him while backing away. Coaches from both teams rushed onto the court to get between the players.

Ray Allen replaced guard Allen Iverson, who sat out with a sprained right thumb, and led the U.S. team with 15 points. Iverson also is expected to miss tonight's game.

CONN. 68, CHARLOTTE 62: Taj McWilliams-Franklin scored 16 and Katie Douglas added 13 as visiting Connecticut swept the best-of-three Eastern Conference semifinal series. Shannon Johnson had eight assists as Connecticut, formerly the Orlando Miracle, advanced to the conference final. Andrea Stinson scored a game-high 25 for Charlotte, which lost its sixth straight playoff game dating to the 2001 title series.

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