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U.S. men’s basketball team loses to Australia, snaps 78-game win streak

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The U.S. men’s basketball team’s 98-94 exhibition loss to Australia on Saturday snapped a 78-game win streak in major international tournaments and exhibitions, a first defeat for a roster of NBA players since the 2006 FIBA World Championship.

The U.S. led by as much as 10 in the third quarter before an Australian team sparked by San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills rallied in Melbourne for an eye-opening result one week before the FIBA World Cup starts.

A full box score is here. After the game, the U.S. roster for the World Cup was announced.

The U.S. is still favored to win the World Cup, where the top two teams from North and South America will qualify for the 2020 Olympics in the first of multiple chances to grab a Tokyo Games spot. But, with a roster missing NBA superstars like LeBron James and Stephen Curry, there is a much smaller margin of error for new coach Gregg Popovich.

“Nobody wins forever,” Popovich said, according to USA Basketball. “The Aussies gave us a great lesson as far as where we have to be and how we have to play in this kind of competition.”

The 13 finalists for the 12-man World Cup roster include one Olympian (Harrison Barnes) and two 2019 NBA All-Stars (captain Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton)

“They say Team USA doesn’t lose. I get it. They haven’t lost in a very long time, which I understand, but it happens,” Walker said. “These guys [Australia] have been playing with each other for a very long time. Us? We’re just kind of beginning.”

It has become custom for the World Cup team to include few Olympians. The 2014 roster included two players from the London Olympics (Anthony Davis, James Harden). The 2010 World Cup team had zero Beijing Olympians.

Many notables dropped out of roster consideration before or during this month’s training camp and practices: including Olympians Davis, Harden, Kevin Love and Kyle Lowry. James, Curry and others withdrew before the camp roster was named, some citing a need for offseason rest.

The last string of defeats in 2004 and 2006, the most recent loss being the 2006 Worlds semifinals to Greece, spurred the Redeem Team, an effort by NBA superstars to show up for the 2008 Olympics after previous teams lacked some of the top players. Under coach Mike Krzyzewski, the U.S. won three straight Olympic titles and back-to-back world titles.

During the 78-game win streak with NBA players, the U.S. has lost games with rosters including non-NBA players, notably at recent Pan American Games and in FIBA World Cup qualifying. And this U.S. team of NBAers lost at least one training camp scrimmage against a group including G-League players last week.

Australia had never beaten the U.S. in more than 20 games at the top senior level.

“Some of it is expected, with a new group that’s trying to learn about each other and learn the system, so it’s not surprising,” said Popovich, who is going into his first tournament since succeeding Krzyzewski. “The Aussies give us a great lesson as far as where we want to be and how you have to play in this kind of a competition.”

MORE: Carmelo Anthony’s request denied to return to USA Basketball

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Israel is first nation to qualify for 2020 Olympic baseball tournament

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Israel’s baseball team, which captivated at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, is headed to its first Olympics next summer.

Israel won a joint European-African tournament to become the first nation to qualify for baseball’s return to the Games after the sport was voted off the program after Beijing 2008.

It joins host nation Japan. Four more countries will qualify — two at the global Premier12 in November, another from the Americas and one more from a last-chance qualifier next year.

Israel, ranked 19th in the world, advanced via its best opportunity in Italy this week. It upset the highest-ranked European nations — the Netherlands (No. 8) and host Italy (No. 16) — and wrapped it up with an 11-1 win over South Africa on Sunday.

Its run came two years after Israel, then ranked 41st, beat South Korea, Chinese Taipei, the Netherlands and Cuba before bowing out of the World Baseball Classic. And one week after Israel finished fourth at the European Championship.

Israel’s roster at this week’s Olympic qualifier lacked many of the MLB veterans that it had at the World Baseball Classic. Israeli citizenship was not required at the WBC.

Its most recognizable player is Danny Valencia, an infielder who played parts of nine MLB seasons from 2010-18.

MLB players are unlikely to feature at the Tokyo Games, but minor leaguers are expected to be eligible as in the past.

The rest of the Olympic field is likely to be nations from North America (such as the U.S., Cuba, Mexico or Canada) or Asia (South Korea, Chinese Taipei) or Australia.

Baseball will not be on the 2024 Olympic program but could be added for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.

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MORE: USA Baseball taps longtime catcher to be Olympic qualifying manager

J’den Cox repeats as world wrestling champion; Kyle Snyder stunned

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If he wasn’t crowned already, it’s clear U.S. wrestling has a new king.

On a day when Rio Olympic champion Kyle Snyder was upset and London Olympic champ Jordan Burroughs rallied for another bronze medal, J’den Cox repeated as world champion in Kazakhstan.

Cox, the Rio Olympic 86kg bronze medalist, completed a perfect run through the 92kg division — not giving up a point in four matches — by dominating Iranian Alireza Karimi 4-0 in the final. He became the second U.S. man to win an Olympic or world title without surrendering a point in more than 30 years (joining Kyle Dake from last year).

“I don’t know why, but it feels like a ton better [than 2018],” said Cox, whose tattoos include one that reads in Latin, “If I cannot move heaven, I will raise hell.” “I made more sacrifices … I wanted to do it better.”

Earlier Saturday, Snyder was shocked by Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov 5-2 in the 97kg semifinals, denying a third straight world final between Snyder and Russian Tank Abdulrashid Sadulayev. Sharifov, the 2012 Olympic 84kg champ, clinched his first world medal in eight years.

Snyder, who in Rio became the youngest U.S. Olympic wrestling champion at age 20, failed to make an Olympic or world final for the first time in his career. He will wrestle for bronze on Sunday, while Sharifov meets Sadulayev for gold.

Burroughs earned his seventh straight world championships medal and second straight bronze. Burroughs, the 2012 Olympic 74kg champion, rebounded from losing to Russian Zaurbeck Sidakov on Friday with a 10-0 technical fall over Japanese Mao Okui.

Burroughs gave up a lead on Sidakov with 1.3 seconds left in the semifinals, a year after Sidakov overtook him as time expired in the quarterfinals.

“A lot of people in 2016 called me a quitter,” said Burroughs, who tearfully missed the medals in Rio, “and I think that after watching the amount of devastation and heartbreak that I’ve taken over the last two years and still being able to come back and take third place is a testament.”

Burroughs, 31, shares third with Adeline Gray on the U.S. list of career world wrestling championships medals, trailing only Bruce Baumgartner and Kristie Davis, who each earned nine.

Burroughs’ bronze ensured he gets a bye into the 74kg final of the Olympic trials in April. But this will be the first time he goes into an Olympic year as anything other than a reigning world champion.

“At this juncture of my career, I feel I’m running out of time,” said Burroughs, who next year will be older than any previous U.S. Olympic wrestling champion. “That can be really scary.”

Dake marched to Sunday’s final in defense of his 2018 World title at 79kg (a non-Olympic weight) by going 23-4 over three matches. Dake, who at Cornell became the only wrestler to win NCAA titles at four weight classes or without a redshirt, gets Azerbaijan’s Jabrayil Hasanov in the final, a rematch of the 2018 gold-medal match.

Next year, Dake must move up to 86kg, where Cox will likely reside, or down to 74kg, where Burroughs has won every U.S. Olympic or world trials dating to 2011. There’s also David Taylor to reckon with. Taylor won the 86kg world title last year but missed this season due to injury.

“We’ve got a guy at 79 kilos that’s going to win a world championship tomorrow,” Burroughs said, smiling, of Dake, “I’m hopefully going to be waiting for [Dake at Olympic trials], healthy and prepared.”

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