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USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

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Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth consecutive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 victory to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an incredible possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVineKevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this game that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after beating a much-less-talented Team USA.

“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans. And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

Team USA Basketball Can Fix Itself Before Tokyo Olympics | Time

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed irritated by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” said Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

“I think that’s why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we’ve got to do what’s necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish.”

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

French coach Vincent Collet also outmaneuvered Popovich by deploying a super big lineup in the second half by playing 7-footers Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier together.

That length against a much smaller American lineup zippered shut driving and passing lanes. After going to the double-big-man lineup after the French fell behind by 10 early in the third quarter, Team USA scored just 29 points in the last 18 minutes.

“Every team has to do what fits with their personnel,” Popovich explained. “And with our team having our two big guys, Draymond [Green] and Bam Adebayo, out there gives us a lot of pace, makes us move well, and works best for the combination of people we have.”

Still, thanks to Holiday, Team USA was in position to win. Two years ago when the score was 74-67 in the fourth quarter in Dongguan, China, the French closed with a 22-5 run to keep the U.S. out of medal contention. On Sunday, Team USA once again led 74-67 in the fourth, and France finished it with a 16-2 run, punctuated by Fournier’s 3-point dagger in the final minute.

Durant played perhaps the worst game of his storied Olympic career, getting in foul trouble and shooting just 4-of-12. His early fouls came when he defended Gobert on switches, forcing him from the floor after he’d had a hot start and scored seven points in the opening minutes. He ended up fouling out in just 21 minutes.

The Americans now will likely have to win their final two pool-play games against Iran and the Czech Republic to advance to the medal round. They could technically advance on scoring margin if they lose another game, however.

“We were just trying too hard to do the right thing,” Lillard said. “Instead of just being who we are — the best players in the NBA.”

Culled from ESPN

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Court Jails Footballer, 1 Other Over Cybercrime

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Justice Sikiru Oyinloye of the Kwara State High Court sitting in Ilorin has sentenced one-year imprisonment on one of the players of Ibrafix Football Club, Ilorin, Bamidele Saoban, for offences bordering on love scam.

Bamidele, 25, was jailed alongside one Adaraloye Ezekiel for similar offence.

The duo were prosecuted on separate charges by the Ilorin zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC).

The defendants pleaded guilty when the charges were read to them.

Following their pleas, counsel to the EFCC, Rashidat Alao, led witnesses in evidence to review the facts of the cases.

The witnesses narrated how actionable intelligence led to the arrest of Bamidele and Adaraloye, telling the court that the duo specialised in “Yahoo-Yahoo business”.

Alao urged the court to convict the defendants since there was no contrary evidence to disprove the prosecution’s claims against them.

Delivering his judgment, Justice Oyinloye said the court was convinced that the prosecution had proved its case beyond reasonable doubt .

The judge sentenced Bamidele to a term of one year imprisonment with option of fine of N150,000 and Adaraloye to six months Imprisonment with option of fine of N250,000.

Culled from the Leadership News Nigeria

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Wife of Abia Governor visits lady allegedly raped by Policemen, assures of justice

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The Wife of the Governor of Abia State, Mrs Nkechi Ikpeazu has visited the student of Abia State Polytechnic, Aba, whose alleged rape by policemen attached to the Rapid Response Squad in Aba sparked off protests by students of the institution today and assured that her Foundation, Vicar Hope, will foot her medical bills as well as ensure justice is done in the matter.

Mrs Ikpeazu who had earlier called and spoken with the victim, was represented by Dr Suzzy Nwachukwu, a medical personnel attached to the Office of the Wife of the Governor, in the visit to the medical facility where the victim was receiving treatment in Aba, condemned the action of perpetrators of the heinous crime and vowed to ensure that the matter was not swept under the carpet.

Mrs Ikpeazu further directed that the lady be moved to another medical facility within the state for better care and warned those who are still allegedly threatening her to prepare for the full weight of the law.

Meanwhile the state government has called on the commissioner of police, Mrs Janet Agbede to expeditiously investigate allegations of harassment of students and other citizens by security agents in the state. This was disclosed to newsmen by the Commisisoner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, who informed that Governor Okezie Ikpeazu has directed the police authorities to ensure full investigation and prosecution of officers who are engaged in harassing law abiding citizens to serve as deterrent to others.

According to him, Governor Ikpeazu is actively monitoring the situation with the alleged harassment and rape of Abiapoly students with a view to ensuring the protection of all law abiding citizens.

Culled from the Sun News Nigeria

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North Korea Says It Successfully Tested Long-Range Missiles

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SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea says it successfully test fired what it described as newly developed long-range cruise missiles over the weekend, its first known testing activity in months, underscoring how it continues to expand its military capabilities amid a stalemate in nuclear negotiations with the United States.

The Korean Central News Agency said Monday the cruise missiles, which had been under development for two years, successfully hit targets 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) away during flight tests on Saturday and Sunday.

The North hailed its new missiles as a “strategic weapon of great significance” that meets leader Kim Jong Un’s call to strengthen the country’s military might, implying that they were being developed with an intent to arm them with nuclear warheads.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the military was analyzing the North Korean launches based on U.S. and South Korean intelligence.

Kim during a congress of the ruling Workers’ Party in January doubled down on his pledge to bolster his nuclear deterrent in the face of U.S. sanctions and pressure and issued a long wish list of new sophisticated assets, including longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear-powered submarines, spy satellites and tactical nuclear weapons. Kim also said then that his national defense scientists were developing “intermediate-range cruise missiles with the most powerful warheads in the world.”

North Korea’s weapons tests are meant to build a nuclear and missile program that can stand up to what it claims as U.S. and South Korean hostility, but they are also considered by outside analysts as ways to make its political demands clear to leaders in Washington and Seoul.

The North’s resumption of testing activity is likely an attempt at pressuring the Biden administration over the diplomatic freeze after Kim failed to leverage his arsenal for economic benefits during the the presidency of Donald Trump.

North Korea ended a yearlong pause in ballistic tests in March by firing two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea, continuing a tradition of testing new U.S. administrations with weapons demonstrations aimed at measuring Washington’s response and wresting concessions.

But there hadn’t been any known test launches for months after that as Kim focused national efforts on fending off the coronavirus and salvaging his economy.

KCNA said the missiles tested over the weekend traveled for 126 minutes “along an oval and pattern-8 flight orbits” above North Korean land and waters before hitting their targets.

“The test launches showed that the technical indices such as the thrust power of the newly developed turbine-blast engine, the missiles’ navigation control and the end guided hit accuracy by the combined guided mode met the requirements of designs. In all, the efficiency and practicality of the weapon system operation was confirmed to be excellent,” it said.

It appeared that Kim wasn’t in attendance to observe the tests. KCNA said Kim’s top military official, Pak Jong Chon, observed the test-firings and called for the country’s defense scientists to go “all out to increase” the North’s military capabilities.

Kim’s powerful sister last month hinted that North Korea was ready to resume weapons testing while issuing a statement berating the United States and South Korea for continuing their joint military exercises, which she said was the “most vivid expression of U.S. hostile policy.”

She then said the North would boost its pre-emptive strike capabilities while another senior official threatened unspecified countermeasures that would leave the allies facing a “security crisis.”

The allies say the drills are defensive in nature, but they have canceled or downsized them in recent years to create space for diplomacy or in response to COVID-19.

Talks between the United States and North Korea have stalled since the collapse of a summit between Trump and Kim in 2019, when the Americans rejected the North’s demand for major sanctions relief in exchange for a partial surrender of its nuclear capabilities. Kim’s government has so far rejected the Biden administration’s overtures for dialogue, demanding that Washington abandon its “hostile” policies first.

The latest tests came after Kim threw an unusual parade in capital Pyongyang last week that was a marked departure from past militaristic displays, showcasing anti-virus workers in hazmat suits and civil defense organizations involved in industrial work and rebuilding communities destroyed by floods instead of missiles and other provocative weaponry.

Experts said that the parade was focused on domestic unity as Kim now faces perhaps his toughest test with North Korea wrestling with U.S.-led economic sanctions over its nuclear weapons, pandemic border closures that are causing further strain to its broken economy, and food shortages worsened by floods in recent summers.

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