Flashback: 1996 U.S. Men Rally to Defeat Yugoslavia 95-69, Claim Gold Medal
After trailing by as many as seven points midway through the first half, the U.S. Men's Olympic Basketball Team rallied to score a 95-69 victory over Yugoslavia to claim the gold medal and finish with a sparkling 8-0 record on Aug. 3 in front of an Olympic men's basketball Georgia Dome record crowd of 34,600. Paced by a game-high 28 points from three-time Olympian David Robinson and 20 points from Reggie Miller, the USA earned its 11th Olympic gold medal and improved its all-time Olympic win-loss record to 101-2.
"I told the players at halftime that reaching in and putting them on the foul line slows down the game and a slower game is their kind of game," said U.S. Olympic head coach Lenny Wilkens. "We wanted to play good defense and not pick up so many fouls in the second half. We went to a smaller, quicker lineup and I thought that gave us the edge and we started to make shots.
"David Robinson was tremendous. He and Reggie came up big. Everyone has worked hard with this team and come up big at different times. Tonight, it was David and Reggie and they just picked us up big time, along with John Stockton."
"Any of these guys could have stepped up, that is why they call this a 'Dream Team.' I am just glad it was my opportunity tonight; it was a lot of fun," commented USA center Robinson. "We were a little bit tight in the first half and I could tell we needed a spark and I just tried to come off the bench and give us that."
A tight affair for nearly 30 minutes, Yugoslavia controlled the pace of the game early and played the USA even for nearly the first seven minutes. The USA missed 11 of its first 17 shots, and with the score knotted at 12-12, the USA was whistled for four fouls over the next 3:02 and found itself trailing by seven points 23-16, with 9:46 remaining in the first half.
The U.S. men chipped steadily away at the Yugoslavia lead until tying the score 34-34 with 3:52 on the first half clock. Tied 36-36 with 2:46 left in the opening stanza, Anfernee Hardaway nailed a 3-pointer to lead the U.S. on a 7-2 run to close the first half and the Americans retired to the locker room with a five point, 43-38, advantage.
Despite Yugoslavia star and current NBA Charlotte Hornet Vlade Divac picking up three quick fouls and fouling out only 4:20 into the second half, Yugoslavia outscored the U.S. 12-8 at the start of the second half to pull within one point, 51-50, with 14:03 to play. But Yugoslavia would come no closer as the United States, behind 10 points from Robinson, recorded an 18-4 scoring spurt to take control 69-55 with 8:32 to play. The USA iced all upset dreams Yugoslavia had and continued to build on its lead until it rolled in for the 95-69 win and the '96 gold medal.
Robinson's game-best 28-point performance pushed him into first place on the United States' all-time Olympic scoring list with 270 points, surpassing two-time Olympian Michael Jordan's previous record of 256. Robinson also finished as the game's top rebounder with seven. Joining Robinson and Miller in double figure scoring with 17 points was Hardaway.
Zarko Paspalj checked in as Yugoslavia's leading scorer with 19 points.
In Saturday's earlier game, Lithuania earned the bronze medal by defeating Australia 80-74.