RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Down Under is on top in Olympic men’s basketball.
Now Australia is looking forward to its shot at the U.S. for the chance to stay there.
“We’re going out there to win a game,” forward Joe Ingles said. “I think we’ve got a team that is focused on that and we believe we can do some special things in this tournament.”
Australia became the first team to start 2-0 here by pulling away to beat Serbia 95-80 on Monday. Patty Mills scored 26 points and Matthew Dellavedova had 23 points and 13 assists for the Australians, who have opened the Olympics by beating France and Serbia, two of the top-six teams in the world.
The Aussies play the top-ranked Americans on Wednesday.
“We haven’t done anything we didn’t expect to do. These are the goals we set,” center Andrew Bogut said.
“We’re not happy being 2-0. We want to continue on and go to the medal rounds.”
The Australians have a team built to do it. They have big bodies inside with Bogut and Aron Baynes, plenty of playmaking with Mills and Dellavedova, and something more that can’t be measured on a stat sheet.
“I think the belief within our group is something that I don’t know if we’ve ever had before,” Mills said.
The U.S. blew Australia out in the quarterfinals of the last two Olympics, part of a disappointing recent history for a team that finished fourth in consecutive Olympics in 1996 and 2000. The Australians have never won an Olympic medal in men’s basketball, part of the reason they weren’t looked at as a top contender here.
“We haven’t done (anything) the last 20 or 30 years of basketball and we still haven’t done anything, so we got a lot to do,” Bogut said. “But the guys who write stories about that, predictions and all that, God bless them because it’s a tough job at times. But we’re really not buying in to that too much.”
Australia felt it had the potential for its best team ever this year, even with No. 1 draft pick Ben Simmons opting not to play and Dante Exum, Ingles’ teammate with the Utah Jazz, unable to make it back from a torn knee ligament.
The Aussies still have an experienced team, with Mills, Bogut, Dellavedova and Baynes all winning NBA championships.
“So they obviously know how to play at this level,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said.
Now the Aussies want more.
“We set a goal to win a gold medal and that’s what we’re here to do,” Ingles said. “We obviously know how hard that is, it’s obviously not an easy task. We’ve been preparing for this for a long time, but we believe we have a team that can do something special.”
Follow Brian Mahoney on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/Briancmahoney