(AFP) – Jul 20, 2008
HANGZHOU, China (AFP) — African champions Angola dispatched Serbia 68-60 to win the Stankovic Cup Sunday, while hosts China took second by beating Russia in this warm-up tournament ahead of the Beijing Olympics.
Angola won all three of their matches in Hangzhou, earlier beating a young team from Russia and a Chinese squad led by NBA All-Star Yao Ming. China and Angola will face each other again in Group B of the Olympic tournament.
Yao scored six points in 20 minutes in the 72-50 win over Russia in his first start with the national team since breaking his foot in February in a game with the NBA Houston Rockets.
"We won the championship and we are happy about this," Angolan coach Alberto Carvalho said.
"But this was not our final goal, nor was it our goal to beat China -- we have more specific goals and that is to prepare our players for the Olympic Games."
The Africans used their experience to wear down the bigger Serbs, blowing open a close game with a speedy attack led by guard Milton Barros, who scored 12 points in the second period to put Angola ahead at the half 36-26.
Angola were led by Olimpio Cipriano with 20 points and eight rebounds, while 2.22-metre (seven-foot-four-inch) centre Boban Marjanovic starred for Serbia.
In the day's second match, China outplayed Russia in all aspects of the game as Yao enjoyed his longest time on court since beginning practice with the national team in early July.
The multi-millionaire centre scored all six of his points in the first quarter, and along with New Jersey Net power forward Yi Jianlian helped China take a 20-8 lead at the end of the period.
In the second quarter Yao was replaced by former Dallas Maverick centre Wang Zhizhi, who scored 10 points as China ended the half leading 35-23.
Wang shared top scoring honours for China with small forward Wang Lei, each scoring 13 points, while sharp-shooting Li Nan also chipped in 11 for the winners.
Although Yao played the entire third quarter, he did not score and looked out of sync on defence as Russian centre Fedor Likholitov -- who scored many of his 13 points against Yao -- constantly attacked China's star man.
"He played well, he didn't tire," Anthony Falcone, Yao's personal trainer, told AFP after the match.
"Reaction-wise, he doesn't have his timing down, not only on defence. Timing-wise, it is a question of game conditioning in game situations. As he plays more games, practises more, he is going to get better."
Besides being one of the most recognisable faces of the Beijing Games and arguably the most successful Chinese athlete ever, NBA All Star Yao is expected to lead his team to Olympic glory in front of home court fans.
At the August 8-24 Games, China and Angola will be joined in Group B by powerhouses the United States and Spain, and two qualifiers to be decided at the final day of a pre-Olympic tournament in Athens to be played later Sunday.
China will play Angola again in a final warm-up match later this month.
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