Flashback: 1996 USA National Team Rallies to Claim 96-90 Victory Over USA Collegians
Trailing by 17 points at halftime, the 1996 USA Basketball Senior National Team fought back behind the play of Chicago Bulls all-star Scottie Pippen to claim a 96-90 victory over a USA Basketball Select Team consisting of top collegians on July 6 in an NBC nationally televised contest from The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan.
"Hopefully this was a wake-up call," said USA head coach Lenny Wilkens. "I didn't think we were aggressive defensively. We talked about it, but we didn't do it. The biggest thing that bothered me was didn't get off the mark. We sat back and really weren't as aggressive as I wanted to be. They hit some shots and they really went after the ball.”
To the surprise of the capacity crowd of 21,454 and a national television audience, with the game just 1:24 old, the USA Select Team grabbed a 7-5 lead and remained in control for most of the first half. Shooting a sizzling 62.9 percent (22-35 FGs) from the field in the first 20 minutes, the U.S. collegians, behind 14 first half points from Shea Seals (Tulsa ‘97), who made all six of his first half shots, pushed its lead to 17 when Seals nailed a 3-pointer with just under two seconds left before the half to give the college players a 59-42 lead.
The U.S. collegians, who led from the 18:36 mark in the opening half until the 6:23 mark, fell behind for just the second time in the first half when the Dream squad took a 40-39 lead. The collegians closed the opening stanza strong and outscored the USA National Team 20-2 to take a 59-42 lead to the locker room at halftime.
Picking up the defensive pressure, the veterans rallied back in the second half and outscored the collegians 54-31 to capture the victory. Behind Pippen, Hakeem Olajuwon and Charles Barkley, the eventual Olympic gold medalists fought back to even the game 73-73 with 8:51 remaining following a David Robinson layup. The two squads traded leads, then with 6:28 remaining, Robinson made two free throws to put the USA Dream Team back into the lead for good, 78-76. The U.S. team of NBA superstars went on to lead by 11 before settling for the 96-90 win.
Pippen paced the U.S. scoring attack with 17 points, while Olajuwon added 16 points, Karl Malone was credited with 13 points, Robinson had 12 and Barkley added 11 and a game best seven rebounds.
The USA collegians were led by Seals who finished with 20 points and Providence College forward Austin Croshere's 10 points.
For the day, the U.S. National team out rebounded the collegians 34-27, but committed 21 turnovers compared to the USA Select Team’s 20. The Dream Team shot 54.1% (33-61 FGs) for the game but made just 2-of-11 3-point tries. The college men hit 9-of-16 3-pointers and finished shooting 47.8% from the field for the game.
The USA Senior National Team returns to play Sunday, July 7, in Cleveland, Ohio, facing the Brazilian Olympic team. The NBC nationally televised game is slated to be held at Gund Arena, with tip-off at 4 p.m. (EDT).
The USA Select Team, which featured 16 finalists for the 1996 USA 22 & Under World Championship Qualifying Team that claimed gold later in the summer, also featured future NBA standouts Chauncey Billups, Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce.
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