The United States and Soviet Union will meet in Olympic basketball for the first time since the controversial gold medal game in 1972.
The semifinal matchup was decided when both teams won their quarterfinal games, the United States in a 94-57 blowout of Puerto Rico and the Soviet Union with a tight 110-105 win over Brazil that wasn't decided until the final five seconds.The other semifinal will match Australia, an upset winner over Spain in the quarterfinals, against Yugoslavia, which beat Canada Monday night.
This is the game U.S. basketball fans have waited for since the 51-50 Soviet victory in Munich, tainted when the final three seconds were replayed twice because of referee error and a clock malfunction.
The teams did not meet in Montreal and each boycotted the Olympic Games played in the other's country.
"One thing I've said about the Soviet Union is poise and turity," U.S. Coach John Thompson said before he knew his semifinal opponent. "I think there are teams here that are deeper, but I don't think there's any more of a cohesive, mature team than they are."
The United States has used a swarming pressure defense throughout the games for six victories with only a six-point decision over Canada being closer than 15 points.
The Soviets have struggled, losing their opener to Yugoslavia and being taken into overtime by Puerto Rico.
Their victory over Brazil, which the U.S. team beat 102-87 in the preliminary round, was sealed when Rimas Kourtinaitis made his sixth 3-pointer of the game with five seconds to play for the final margin.
The United States had its quarterfinal game well in hand by halftime and Thompson was pleased with what his team showed.
"I thought they did an excellent job defensively in terms of what we were trying to acomplish," Thompson said. "What we were trying to do as much as possible was disrupt and break up the continuity of their offense and I think today the kids did a good job doing that."
The task of disrupting the Soviets could be more difficult because of their deep backcourt. But the confrontation everyone is waiting for will be at center between David Robinson and Arvydas Sabonis.
Sabonis has not played competitively in two years until these Games because of an injury to his Achilles' tendon. Robinson has played sparingly over the past 18 months while serving his military commitment.