Barbosa helps Brazil stay perfect; Argentina, Uruguay get wins
LAS VEGAS -- Leandro Barbosa increased his tournament-leading scoring average with 36 points and Brazil hung on for a 93-89 victory over the upset-minded U.S. Virgin Islands on Saturday in the FIBA Americas championship.
The win sets up Sunday's meeting of unbeatens as Brazil (3-0) faces the United States (3-0) on the final day of the first round. The winner will be the top seed from the five-team group heading into the four-game second round. The top two finishers in the 10-team tournament earn berths in the Beijing Olympics.
Barbosa, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, came into the game averaging 22.5 points, including a 30-point performance in the opening win over Canada.
The U.S. Virgin Islands (0-3) was setting up the biggest upset of the tournament when it took a 45-33 lead with 2:10 left in the second quarter, and was still ahead 48-41 at halftime.
Brazil finally found its shooting touch and starting playing some defense in a dominant third quarter in which it outscored the U.S. Virgin Islands 31-15, going 4-for-5 from 3-point range after missing eight of nine shots from there in the first half.
Brazil increased the lead to 83-68 with 8:44 to go on a driving layup by Alex Garcia and appeared to be on the way to an easy win, but the U.S. Virgin Islands had one last comeback in trying to get its first victory.
Cuthbert Victor, who played at Murray State, scored 12 points in a 16-2 run by the U.S. Virgin Islands that made it 87-84 with 2:01 left. Brazil was able to hold on by making six of eight free throws the rest of the way, with Barbosa going 4-for-6 and getting the rebound of one of his misses.
Barbosa didn't think he and his teammates were looking ahead to Sunday's matchup with the United States.
"No. I don't think it was about that," he said. "I think we lost a little bit of focus. I think we were thinking that the game was going to be easy and it's not that way."
Victor finished with 25 points for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In other action on Saturday:
Argentina 104, Mexico 83
Carlos Delfino had 20 points and 11 rebounds and was one of four Argentina players with at least three 3-pointers in a win over Mexico on Saturday night, which clinched the top spot for the South Americans in the first-round pool.
Paolo Quinteros added 18 points for Argentina (3-0), which finished 15-for-31 from 3-point range and shot 50 percent overall (33-for-66) from the field.
Romel Beck had 24 points, 20 in the first half, for Mexico (1-2), which has allowed at least 89 points in each of its games.
Argentina closes first-round play Sunday against Panama, but even a loss wouldn't knock it from the top spot because Uruguay (2-1), which plays Mexico on Sunday, is the only team in the group that can reach three wins and Argentina beat them for the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Mexico could still be the one team from the pool not to advance to the second round if it loses to Uruguay and Panama (1-2) loses to Argentina. They and Puerto Rico (1-3) would then finish in a three-way tie and point differential would be the tiebreaker in that situation.
Argentina led by as many as 27 points, the last time at 86-59 with 8:12 to play.
Uruguay 82, Puerto Rico 79
Esteban Batista had 34 points and 15 rebounds for Uruguay, which survived a wild final few seconds for an victory over Puerto Rico.
Uruguay (2-1) rallied behind their big man to overcome a 48-29 halftime deficit, taking the lead for good on the 6-foot-10 Batista's second straight rebound basket that made it 78-76 with 1:02 left.
Reserve point guard Fernando Martinez made three of four free throws over the next 50 seconds to give Uruguay an 81-76 lead. Larry Ayuso hit a 3-pointer with 7.3 seconds left to bring Puerto Rico (1-3) within two. Nicolas Mazzarino made one of two free throws with 5.8 seconds left to give Uruguay an 82-79 lead and set up the frantic finish.
Uruguay decided to foul before Puerto Rico had a chance to get off a possible game-tying 3-point attempt. Mazzarino fouled Jose Juan Barea near midcourt with 2.6 seconds left and the Puerto Rico bench was screaming he was in the act of shooting. NBA referee Eddie F. Rush, working the tournament as a FIBA official, stood by his call that Barea was not in the act.
Barea, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks, missed the first free throw. He missed the second intentionally and the ball bounced off the rim and Puerto Rico's Angelo Reyes came up with the loose ball about 15 feet from the basket, stepped back and shot a 3 that bounced off the rim as the buzzer sounded.
Puerto Rico, which concluded its first round with this game, will have to wait for Sunday's results to see if it advances to the second round. Mexico (1-1), which played Argentina later Saturday and faces Uruguay on Sunday, and Panama (1-2), which plays Argentina on Sunday, also could finish with three losses.
Puerto Rico lost to Mexico and beat Panama if it comes down to a head-to-head tiebreaker, but if three teams are involved, point differential comes into play.
The top four teams from each five-team pool advance to the second round and the top two teams in the tournament earn berths in the Beijing Olympics.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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