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Team USA goes cold at finish

BEIJING -- The U.S. men's basketball team's 46-game
University Games winning streak ended Thursday in an 83-82 loss to
China, when 7-foot-5 Yao Ming blocked Melvin Ely's putback attempt.

The United States had won a record six straight gold medals at
these sort of mini-Olympics for college students, with players such
as Tim Duncan and Allen Iverson contributing to the streak.

"I'm very proud of the guys, I thought they played very hard," said USA and
Penn State University head coach Jerry Dunn. "We got after it defensively
and really created some turnovers, especially early in the game. We got
down early, but we fought back and put ourselves in a position to win the
basketball game. Things just didn't go our way and we ended up the short end of
the stick."

China led 21-8 in the first quarter, and was ahead
81-70 with about 3½ minutes left before the U.S. team came back.

Juan Dixon, a member of Maryland's Final Four team this year,
hit three of four U.S. 3-pointers down the stretch.

After his second 3-pointer cut the deficit to 81-79, Zhang
Cheng's driving layup made it 83-79. Dixon then hit another 3,
giving him a game-high 26 points and making it a one-point contest
with 35 seconds left.

The United States then had three chances to go ahead.

Dixon missed a short jumper on the ensuing U.S. possession. The
Americans got the rebound but were called for a sideline violation
that had their coaches jumping in protest.

After a scramble under China's basket, the United States picked
up the loose ball and had one final opportunity.

But Texas power forward Chris Owens -- Jesse Owens' grand nephew
-- missed a short shot under heavy pressure. Ely grabbed the rebound
and put it back up. Yao swatted it away, drawing cries from the
U.S. team for a goaltending call that never came.

"Chris (Owens) and I were just down there battling trying to get a quick
shot," commented Ely on his shot at the end of the game. "We got one up,
but it didn't go in. But you have to deal with that. We shouldn't have put
ourselves in that predicament in the beginning, so we have to live with it.

"It's all about coming out and playing hard," added Ely. "Nobody came out
here to slack off. We came out here to achieve a mission and we came up
short. But we can still get a medal and that's what we're going to do."

With the crowd of estimated at 5,000 going crazy, the Chinese
players celebrated as if they already had won the gold medal,
jumping into each other's arms at center court.

The United States went on a 19-6 run bridging the first and
second quarters to go ahead for the first time 33-32 when China was
called for goaltending on a dunk attempt by Ely. The U.S. team led
42-40 at halftime.

The game was tied at 59 late in the third quarter.

Zhang Jingsong led five Chinese players in double figures with
18 points, including 7-of-7 on free throws. Dallas Mavericks
forward Wang Zhizhi had 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Yao had 12
points and five blocks.

Lonnie Baxter, a teammate of Dixon's at Maryland, had 12 points
and four rebounds, while Fresno State's Ely added 10 points and
eight rebounds.

China outrebounded the United States 42-36.

"China did a very good job tonight on both ends of the floor," added Dunn.
"They have some really talented players, extremely big obviously, and they
do a real nice job of executing their offense."

Germany played Yugoslavia later Thursday in the other semifinal.

Elsewhere Thursday, the U.S. men beat France to win the gold in
volleyball, and Kara Lawson of Tennessee scored nine points in the
first quarter as the United States beat Lithuania 70-49 to reach
the women's basketball final.

The Americans will play China, which downed the Czech Republic
95-75, for the women's gold. Both teams are 6-1.

Ayana Walker led the Americans with 15 points, 13 in the second
quarter when they essentially put the game away. Lindsey Yamasaki
added 13 points, including three 3-pointers, and Lawson finished
with 11.

"We had a very poor start the last game. It's so important to
jump on top," Lawson said. "We've held back a little bit. But
this late in a tournament, you show your full deck."