Australia coach says Spain could beat US

By Larry Fine, Reuters

Posted at Aug 01 2012 12:34 PM | Updated as of Aug 01 2012 08:34 PM

LONDON - Australian men's basketball coach Brett Brown suggested a Parents of the Year award in praising a Spanish team he said had the ability to knock out the defending champion U.S. team in the Olympic basketball tournament.

"I think Spain should create some type of award for Mr. and Mrs. Gasol," Brown said in reference to the 7-foot (2.14 m) Pau Gasol of the Los Angeles Lakers, and his slightly taller younger brother Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies.

"They are very important people in Spanish basketball," added Brown, who is keenly aware of NBA talent as an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs.

Brown's Australia team fell 82-70 on Tuesday to the 2008 silver medalists in a preliminary round game at the Olympic Basketball Arena after his team struggled to handle the towering Spanish frontcourt of the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka.

Pau Gasol led Spain with 20 points, while Marc added 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds in the victory that improved Spain to 2-0.

Brown said the heavily favoured U.S. team could have their hands full with Spain.

"How would you like to roll those two brothers out and have Serge Ibaka, who in my other job with the Spurs knocked us out," said Brown, whose San Antonio team was eliminated from the NBA playoffs by Ibaka and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

"You step back and look at the depth of their roster, the history of the programme, the age of their players. They are ripe to, in my opinion, have a legitimate chance of knocking the United States off."

Australia played tight defence to give Spain a good battle early in the game, holding a 19-14 lead after the first quarter and trailing by only 37-32 at intermission before the winners took advantage of some cold shooting to turn up the speed on their fast break attack.

"We are satisfied with this," said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. "We know we're in the process of getting better, step by step. In my opinion this was a very good win."

Rudy Fernandez contributed 17 points for Spain, showing no ill effects of a cut in the back of his head he suffered in the second quarter that required three stitches.

Australia (0-2) made only 30 of 81 shots, including 4 of 24 from beyond the three-point arc.

"We missed a lot of shots and they ran it down our throat on the way back,' said Joe Ingles, who shared Australian scoring honours with Brad Newley with 12 points.

Pau Gasol, winner of two NBA titles with the Lakers, said Spain started slowly but built their momentum.

"We have to find a little better consistency," he said. "Against better teams we're going to have to start off much better than we have.

"But so far, two wins, and we are known as a team that goes from playing so-so to playing better at the end of the tournaments."

Russia also improved to 2-0 with a 73-54 win against China (0-2). (Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)