Wed, Aug 16, 2006 - Page 19 News List

James stars in US warmup win

OH, IT'S ON LeBron James picked up his energy levels and scored 23 points as the US team thrashed South Korea in the World Basketball Challenge 2006 in Seoul

AP , SEOUL

Carmelo Anthony, left, of the US drives with the ball to score as South Korea's Ha Seung-Jin defends at the World Basketball Challenge 2006 in Seoul yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

LeBron James is on a mission to put US Basketball back on top of the world.

In a game that was decided in the first 10 minutes, James scored a team-high 23 points yesterday to lead the US to an emphatic 116-63 win over South Korea in a tuneup game for the world championships.

Led by James, the Americans took control early.

The Cleveland Cavaliers superstar hit a 3-pointer two minutes in and then gave the US an early 9-2 lead with an easy layup.

Late in the first period, James' two-handed slam dunk made it 13-5 and the Americans finished the first quarter with a comfortable 22-13 lead.

"We were a little sluggish at first and I was able to pick up my energy level and the guys followed," James said. "We got better as the game went on and took care of business."

With the win, the Americans improved to 5-0 in exhibition games leading up to the worlds which begin later this week in Japan.

Dwyane Wade gave the US a 20-point lead midway through the second period when he broke through the Korean defense and finished with a two-handed jam.

James, who had 19 points in the first half, stole the ball at center court and went in all alone for a slam dunk with 3:49 left in the second period as the US widened its lead to 62-35 at the break.

Despite the one-sided score, there was no letting up for James.

In the third period, Wade made an alley-oop lob to James who saluted the crowd after yet another dunk made it 73-38. The US took an 86-52 lead into the final period when coach Mike Krzyzewski elected to rest the 2m-tall forward.

When introduced, the US players got a huge ovation from the South Korean fans. Yesterday was a national holiday to mark the 61st anniversary of the end of Japanese colonial rule on the Korean Peninsula.

Carmelo Anthony, Shane Battier, Elton Brand, Kirk Hinrich and Wade started for the US team.

After a visit to a US military base today, the US will head to Sapporo, Japan, for its opening game of the championships on Saturday against Puerto Rico.

The US finished sixth at the worlds in 2002 and third in 1998. The last time the Americans won the tournament was 1994.

In previous tournaments, the US was criticized for not playing as a team but James doesn't see that as a problem with this team.

"I didn't play for the team in 2002," James said. "I played on the Olympic team in 2004 and we didn't have the right mind-set. This team has the right mind-set to get the job done."

The US won the bronze medal in Athens.

The US still must cut one of its players before the world championships. The roster was reduced to 13 when Gilbert Arenas strained his groin during practice on Monday and was unable to compete for a spot on the 12-player roster.

"We have to get down to 12 players before the worlds and that will be a tough decision," Krzyzewski said.

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