INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- A swarming defense and a balanced scoring effort led by Emanuel Ginobili gave Argentina to a shocking 87-80 victory over the United States in the World Basketball Championship Wednesday night, the first loss ever for an American team made up of NBA players.
The United States had won all 58 of its international contests involving players from the NBA since the initial Dream Team particulated in the Barcelona Olympics.
Argentina's victory came after Team USA had been forced to rally against both Germany and China earlier in the tournament.
"It had to happen," American coach George Karl said. "They are a veteran team,
well coached. We are a group of individuals who haven't had enough time
together. We didn't do the job on defense and couldn't get our shots to
"In the medal round I would like to play them again."
The loss does not eliminate the Americans from gold medal contention. But it not only demonstrated the vulnerability of the U.S. team, it will force the Americans to play a quarterfinal game Thursday night against Yugoslavia.
Going into the tournament, Yugoslavia was given the best chance to end the American winning streak.
Argentina, a national team that has trained together for more than a year, led from the opening stages and dominated throughout the night -- building as much as an 18-point lead in the first half. Argentina finished unbeaten in the six-game, round-robin phase of the tournament and as the champion of Group F will play Brazil in the quarterfinals.
"It's a great win for our country considering the economic troubles we have had," said Argentine Coach Ruben Magnano. "And it is a great win for our team, which is underrated because we don't play in Europe. We earned thegame. We played better defense and out rebounded them."
"We wanted it more," said Ginobilo, who will play for the San Antonio Spurs next season. "We made less mistakes, shot the ball better and got easy baskets.
"Our defense frustrated them. This is the biggest win I have ever been involved with."
Andres Noccioni scored 14, Luis Scola 13 and Fabricio Oberto had 11 for Argentina, which had little trouble picking apart the U.S. defense while hitting 50 percent from the field.
Though the Americans were supposed to have superior depth, Argentina owned a 36-22 advantage in bench scoring.
"They are a lot better than we thought," said American guard Baron Davis. "They shut us down in the first quarter and we got frustrated and didn't regain our focus until the third period.
"It took us until late in the third period to start working hard on defense and playing team ball. We didn't play good defense until too late."
Earlier in the day, Peja Stojakovic and Milan Gurovic each scored 16 points to carry Yugoslavia to a 110-78 victory over Turkey and into the quarterfinals.
Spain, meanwhile, used a 23-point performance from Pau Gasol to defeat Brazil, 84-67. Both Spain and Brazil will move into the quarterfinals from Group E, as will Puerto Rico, which played Angola Wednesday night.
Yugoslavia, a pre-tournament favorite to meet the United States in the title game, instead found itself in a must-win situation to keep its medal hopes alive.
Losses to Spain and Puerto Rico during the round-robin portion of the tournament put Yugoslavia on the brink of elimination. But a key win over Brazil Tuesday, plus the victory over Turkey, set Yugoslavia up for a quarterfinal matchup with either the Americans or Argentina.
Wednesday's game was a rematch of the 2001 European Championship.
"This team is playing as they know how to play, and at a high level of intensity," said Yugoslavia Coach Svetislav Pesic. "I'm looking forward to the upcoming games."
Yugoslavia hit 59 percent of its shots.
"The best recipe is to play good defense with a lot of fast breaks," said Igor Rakocevic, who scored 20 points. "If we can continue to play like this, we can hope to win a medal."
Turkey was led by Mehmet Okur with 21 points and nine rebounds. Turkey got off to a quick start, leading 9-2 in the opening minutes and 15-12 midway through the first period. But when Pesic and Jaric came off the bench, Turkey was unable to keep pace. Yugoslavia scored the final nine points of the first period for a 21-15 lead that quickly grew to 34-22 in the second.
Turkey climbed within seven points in the second period, but Yugoslavia went on a 9-0 run to end the half and took a 50-34 lead at the break.
Spain shot 50 percent in its win and outrebounded Brazil, 42-18.