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U.S. routs Japan by 53 points at FIBA World Cup; Giannis, Greece next

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The U.S. men’s basketball team rebounded from near defeat to crush Japan by 53 points at the FIBA World Cup on Thursday.

It routed Japan 98-45, two days after a one-point overtime win over 17th-ranked Turkey. The U.S. won all three of its first-round group games to advance to a second round of group play.

A full box score is here.

The 53-point margin of victory came just shy of the U.S. record margin of 59 points over Finland in 2014. The record is for the Dream Team era, since teams of NBA superstars started playing at major international tournaments in 1992. The U.S. led by as much as 62 late in the fourth quarter.

The overall U.S. record margin is a 79-point win over South Korea in 1990.

Next up: Greece, led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greeks finished second in their group behind Brazil.

“We go as far as Giannis goes,” said Greek teammate Nick Calathes, a former University of Florida standout who played for the Memphis Grizzlies between stints with Greek power Panathinaikos, formerly coached by Rick Pitino.

The top two teams from the second-round group of the U.S., Greece, Brazil and the Czech Republic advance to the quarterfinals next week. The points from the first round of group games carry over.

“He is the MVP, but at the same time, they do have other great players on that team,” said U.S. swingman Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo’s teammate on the Milwaukee Bucks. “It’s not just all about Giannis.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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World champion wins doping case citing bodily fluids from boyfriend

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland (AP) — A world champion canoeist won a doping case Monday after persuading a tribunal that her positive test was caused by bodily fluid contamination from her boyfriend.

The International Canoe Federation (ICF) ended its investigation into 11-time world champion Laurence Vincent Lapointe, who tested positive for a steroid-like substance in July. She faced a four-year ban and could have missed her event’s Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.

The Canadian canoe sprint racer and her lawyer detailed in a news program that laboratory analysis of hair from her then-boyfriend showed he was likely responsible for a tiny presence of ligandrol in her doping sample.

“The ICF has accepted Ms. Vincent Lapointe’s evidence which supports that she was the victim of third-party contamination,” the governing body said in a statement, clearing her to return to competition.

The legal debate is similar to tennis player Richard Gasquet’s 2009 acquittal in the “cocaine kiss” case. The Court of Arbitration for Sport accepted Gasquet’s defense that kissing a woman who had taken cocaine in a Miami nightclub, after he had withdrawn injured from a tournament, caused his positive test.

The 27-year-old Vincent Lapointe was provisionally suspended for almost six months and missed the 2019 World Championships, which was a key qualifying event for the Tokyo Olympics. American 17-year-old Nevin Harrison won the 200m world title in her absence.

She can still qualify for the Olympic debut of women’s canoe sprint events with victory at a World Cup event in May in Germany.

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U.S. women’s soccer team begins Olympic qualifying, which should rest on one match

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The U.S. women’s soccer team has never been in danger in Olympic qualifying, but that doesn’t change this fact: It must win on Feb. 7 to reach the Tokyo Games.

The CONCACAF tournament begins Tuesday in Houston, where the world champion Americans face world No. 72 Haiti. The last two group games are against No. 68 Panama on Friday and No. 37 Costa Rica on Feb. 3. The top two nations from the group advance to Feb. 7 semifinals.

The U.S. roster, with 18 of its 20 players coming from the 2019 World Cup team, is here.

Since CONCACAF qualifies two nations to the Olympics, the semifinals are the deciding games.

Should the U.S. win its group, it would face the runner-up from the other group in a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match. The other group (world ranking):

Canada (8)
Mexico (37)
Jamaica (53)
St. Kitts and Nevis (127)

Chaos could result in the unlikely event that either the U.S. or Canada finishes second in its group, and the two North American powers play a semifinal.

The U.S. is undefeated in Olympic qualifying history, since the tournament format began in 2004 — 15-0 with a goal differential of 88-1. The lone goal allowed came in a group-stage match in 2008, when the U.S. was already assured a spot in the semifinals.

Still, the U.S. knows the feeling of one poor outing in an important match. In 2010, it lost to Mexico in a winner-to-the-World Cup match. The U.S. was forced to win a last-chance, home-and-home playoff against a UEFA team — Italy — for the last spot in the World Cup.

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