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U.S. upset by France at FIBA World Cup, first major loss in 13 years

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The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered its first global tournament loss in 13 years, beaten by France 89-79 in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday.

The U.S., which was bidding for the first World Cup three-peat but without any NBA superstars, will leave worlds in China without a medal.

“It’s not about, well, the United States didn’t have their other guys,” said U.S. coach Gregg Popovich, at his first tournament since succeeding Mike Krzyzewski. “There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here.

“It’s also a disrespectful notion to even bring something like that up, that, hey you guys didn’t have this guy and that guy. That’s disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament. France beat us. It doesn’t matter who was on the team.”

The Americans had won 58 straight games with NBA players among the Olympics, World Cup and FIBA Americas since its last defeat in the 2006 World Cup semifinals to Greece.

The Americans, led by Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (29 points), battled back from a 10-point, third-quarter deficit to lead by seven early in the fourth.

But France, with Rudy Gobert (21 points, 16 rebounds), went on an 11-point run in the fourth to retake the lead and advance to a Friday semifinal against Argentina. A full box score is here.

“I don’t know how to describe,” Gobert said on ESPN2 of France’s first-ever win over the U.S. after nine losses between the Olympics and worlds and 21 losses when including the U17, U19 and World University Games levels. “I’ve been dreaming about this for a long time. … It’s probably the kind of game you’re going to talk about in 20 years. We’ve got to take it all in.”

Spain gets Australia in the other semifinal. Spain and France clinched 2020 Olympic spots as the last two remaining European teams, making it eight teams qualified so far for the tournament. The others are Japan, Australia, Iran, Nigeria, the U.S. and Argentina.

MORE: Every U.S. loss since the Dream Team

This U.S. team was deemed vulnerable after every NBA superstar withdrew from World Cup roster consideration.

What was left was a roster with two 2019 NBA All-Stars (Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton) and one player with Olympic experience (Harrison Barnes).

“You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have, but why don’t you all focus on who we do have?” Mitchell said. “We came ready to work for coach Pop.”

Walker, the team leader in the backcourt, struggled Wednesday with twice as many turnovers as made field goals (2 for 9). The Americans also got beat in the paint, outrebounded 44-28.

“Of course, people are going to say it was a big upset because of who we are and what this team has done in the past,” Walker said.

The concern for this team was first confirmed with a pre-tournament loss to Australia, snapping a 78-game win streak with NBA players when including exhibitions. Then tested again in group play last week, when the U.S. eked past 17th-ranked Turkey by one point in overtime.

The U.S., which qualified for the 2020 Olympics by advancing out of group play, was due for a step up in competition by starting knockout play against France.

The French have five NBA players, including Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nicolas Batum. They challenged the Americans at the Rio Olympics, losing 100-97 in group play.

The U.S. plays Serbia in a consolation-round game Thursday in a rematch of the Rio Olympic final.

“Any loss hurts,” Popovich said. “This situation, it hurts more.”

MORE: FIBA World Cup schedule, results

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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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