The United States went through the motions today and defeated Cuba, 88-52, after learning of the likely defections of four Cuban players prior to tip-off.
The point total was the second lowest for the Americans in 34 games using NBA players in 1992, 1994, 1996 and 1999 and only one point higher than the United States had against Angola at the 1996 Olympics.
So poorly did the Americans play that a near-sellout crowd broke into a boisterous chant of "Cu-ba, Cu-ba" late in the first half as the Cubans, playing with three regulars and five reserves, were managing to keep the game close.
A three-pointer by Angel Nunez with less than two minutes remaining cut the U.S. team's lead to 43-32, and Cuba could have trailed by just nine points at intermission if Edel Casanova had not missed a wide-open layup and two free throws just before the buzzer.
The United States, whose lackluster effort and general laziness bordered on shocking, eventually turned the game into a laugher with a 16-0 run midway through the second half for a 69-37 lead.
"We weren't particularly sharp like the first few games," Tom Gugliotta said. "The defections make you think about how lucky we are to live the way we live while members of the opposite team are trying to leave their country."
Cuba has lost all four of its games in the 10-nation tournament and was eliminated from Group A. The top two teams advance to the 2000 Olympics.
In earlier games, Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic, 103-95, in overtime to finish the first round at 4-0, and Argentina defeated Uruguay, 97-81.
Brazil was a 90-73 winner over Panama in the late game, eliminating Panama from the tournament.