O'Neal Good as Gold

by Conrad Brunner

BRISBANE, Australia, September 9, 2001 - When the United States team needed him the most, Jermaine O'Neal was at his best.

O'Neal had his two best games of the tournament in the final two, leading the team in scoring and rebounding in both as the U.S. won the gold medal at the Goodwill Games.

The 6-11 forward-center led the U.S. with 14 points, adding eight rebounds and four blocked shots, in a 91-63 victory over Argentina in the gold medal game on Sunday.

Without his inside dominance, the U.S. might not have made it that far.

In the semifinals against upset-minded Brazil, O'Neal had 22 points, eight rebounds and four blocked shots as the U.S. averted a rare international loss with a 106-98 overtime victory.

''We knew we had to have a better showing today than we did when we played Brazil,'' O'Neal said after the gold-medal game. ''This was definitely fun and I am proud. We showed the world that we have some of the best athletes in the world.

''Today, it was all business. We didn't want to leave any doubt in anybody's mind. We wanted to come out and show the world that we were the team to beat. Our guys wanted to get up and play really hard because you are wearing USA on your chest. We feel really proud about what we accomplished.''

In five games for the U.S., O'Neal averaged 13.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 3.2 blocks and shot .683 from the field (28 of 41) and .500 from the free throw line (10 of 20).