American coach Rudy Tomjanovich called it a "do or die game" for Australia.
Well, R.I.P. Australia.The mix-and-match Americans - the no-name composite of CBA, European pros and a college player - kept Australia from claiming the eighth and final quarterfinal spot in the World Basketball Championship by dumping the Aussies Tuesday 96-78.
Instead, the final place in Friday's quarterfinals went to Argentina, which beat Brazil 86-76 and then had to wait several hours for the American victory over Australia.
"For our tournament to hinge on a game with the United States was tough. Talk about being behind the eight-ball," said Australia coach Barry Barnes.
"We kept changing defenses. We tried pressure, we tried laying off their shooters, but nothing worked," he added.
The Americans demoralized the Aussies in the first half with hot shooting - just under 60 percent from the field - and a stiff man-to-man defense that forced turnovers and started the offense running. The second half was more of the same in the best U.S. performance of the championships so far.
Jimmy Oliver led the U.S. attack with 18 points and Jason Sasser added 15 as 10 of the 12 Americans got on the scoreboard.
"We had a lot at stake," Tomjanovich said. "If we win, we get the number one seed. If we lose, we drop all the way to four. It was a do-or-die for Australia, too."
Australia - silver medalists last month in the Goodwill Games - was led by Shane Heal with 31.
In Friday's quarterfinals, it will be the United States (5-1) vs. Italy (3-3), Spain (5-1) vs. Greece (4-2), Lithuania (4-2) vs. Russia (5-1), and Argentina (3-3) vs. Yugoslavia (5-1).
Under the complicated system to pair teams for the quarterfinals, a U.S. loss could have pitted it against Yugoslavia or Russia - perhaps the two favorites. Every other team faced similar last-minute twists.
In Argentina's critical victory, Marcelo Nicola scored 22 points and Fabricio Oberto added 21.