Team USA Beats France, Heads Overseas

NEW YORK -- Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski insists that using the zone defense isn't entirely because of looming size problems.

The Americans head to Turkey next month with a 12-man roster that is guard-heavy and features just one true center---7-footer Tyson Chandler.

So when the United States showed the zone in a 86-55 victory over France on Sunday at Madison Square Garden, some could assume it was to provide some additional help inside. That's not the whole story, though.

"The zone is good this team because we have lateral quickness and a lack of bulk," Krzyzewski said. "The zone will be good for this team because it's good, and we have one of the best teachers in the world at it in (USA assistant and Syracuse head coach) Jim Boeheim."

It's especially interesting since zone is rarely used in the NBA, the full-time job of the entire Team USA roster. Still, the zone did its part in a stifling defensive effort against France.

The French shot just 35 percent from the field, committed 21 turnovers and were outrebounded by the Americans 34-31. While Rudy Gay and Chauncey Billups led USA with 19 and 17 points respectively, it was the defense of players like Kevin Durant (eight rebounds, three blocks) which made more of a difference.

That was particularly the case in the second half, in which the Americans outscored the French 47-25 to cruise to the win.

Team USA was a little sloppy in the opening minutes, but Krzyzewski wasn't surprised.

"We had a little bit of jitters," Krzyzewski said. "This was the first time, for most of our guys, playing for their country in a game."

It's inexperience which could be a weakness for the United States---if they let it become one.

"We're just going to have to cover up our inexperience by playing hard," said Billups, one of the veterans of the team.

Team USA now heads overseas for several weeks of international action. The Americans will play two exhibition games in Spain and an third game in Greece before heading to Istanbul, Turkey for the FIBA World Championships on August 28.

Sunday was the Americans' first and last game on home soil this year, as it wrapped up the four-day World Basketball Festival.

Judging by the 31-point win, it was a success.

"This was our last time playing on American soil," Billups said, "and we wanted to put on a good show for our home fans."

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