Sports Briefs

Posted: Monday, August 18, 2003

Bliss apologizes for bringing player into scheme

AUSTIN, Texas Baylor University's former basketball coach apologized to one of the players he tried to enlist in a scheme to cover up alleged NCAA violations by accusing a slain player of dealing drugs, the player's father said Sunday.

Former coach Dave Bliss met with R.T. Guinn on Saturday, Richard Guinn said. The meeting at the player's home came the day after secretly recorded audiotapes revealed Bliss had tried to use players and an assistant coach in an attempt to portray Patrick Dennehy as a drug dealer.

Richard Guinn refused to disclose the nature of the conversation, but said Bliss told his son: ''I'm sorry about the things that happened.''

U.S. pros beat up on Puerto Rico in exhibition

NEW YORK Jason Kidd graded the U.S. team with a ''B,'' which seemed about right after a performance that was very good but not great.

Tim Duncan had 21 points and 15 rebounds and the United States broke open a semi-close game with a 10-0 fourth-quarter run to defeat Puerto Rico 101-74 in an exhibition game Sunday. It was the only tuneup for the Americans before beginning play Wednesday night at the Olympic qualifying tournament in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The game, originally scheduled for Friday night, was postponed for two days due to Thursday's blackout in the northeastern United States and Canada.

''It wasn't our best game, but I think we did some good things and made some adjustments on the fly. We still have some room for improvement, but I think it's a ''B.'' It wasn't totally bad, and I think we got better,'' Kidd said.

This was the first time playing in a big arena for this version of the U.S. senior national team, and it became apparent right away how much the Americans missed Duncan last summer when they finished sixth at the World Championships. Duncan had 11 of the U.S. team's first 15 points and finished the first quarter with 15.

Tracy McGrady scored 15 points and Ray Allen 14 for the Americans, who outscored Puerto Rico 26-8 in the final quarter and 47-16 in the second half.

Carlos Arroyo of the NBA's Utah Jazz led Puerto Rico with 18 points.

''It's a good example of what we are going to be faced with playing teams that have been together for a long time, and we have to respect them,'' U.S. coach Larry Brown said. ''There were far more positives than negatives.''

While the U.S. team missed 15 free throws (in 35 attempts) and committed 15 turnovers, the biggest positive was the way they clamped down on defense and controlled the boards in the second half.

The Americans finished with a 54-23 edge in rebounding and held Puerto Rico to 25 percent shooting in the second half.

With Duncan making his first six shots, the Americans shot 63 percent in the first half but led just 54-48 at the break after Eddie Casiano hit a 3-pointer right before the buzzer.

Assistant coach Gregg Popovich challenged the U.S. team to hold Puerto Rico to 35 points or less in the second half, and the team responded better than he expected.

After Puerto Rico pulled to 64-61 early in the third, Duncan responded with a corner jumper, Allen Iverson hit a jumper and Elton Brand scored inside to get the lead up to nine.

The U.S. team led 75-66 entering the fourth, and Arroyo's free throw with 9:19 left in the quarter made it 75-67. Puerto Rico didn't score for the next 3:42 as the Americans turned up their defensive pressure and pulled away.

''We set the goal to hold them to 35 or less, and we definitely stuck to the goal,'' said McGrady, who gave the U.S. team a grade of ''C-plus.''

The game drew a crowd of 16,473 to Madison Square Garden, and the fans picked on U.S. forward Nick Collison after he entered the game in the second quarter and quickly botched two plays.

''I think they booed me because I wasn't playing well,'' Collison said. ''At least I did something well by the end. It was a little embarrassing that they had to give me a standing (ovation) just for tipping a ball off a guy's leg.

The American team will practice in New York on Monday before traveling to Puerto Rico and opening the qualifying tournament Wednesday night against Brazil. The U.S. team is in a different first-round bracket than three of the better teams Argentina, Canada and Puerto Rico and won't face them until the second round.

''I think we've come a long way from where we started five or six days ago,'' Duncan said. ''If we started at a 'C,' we've moved up to a 'B.'''

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