SAPPORO (FIBA World Championship
) - Carmelo Anthony scored a record 35 points for Team USA at a FIBA World Championship and led them to a fourth straight victory over previously unbeaten Italy.
The Americans clinched first place in Group D and will, after their final game against Senegal on Thursday, go into the eight-finals as the top seed from the pool.
The Italians, with several of their silver-medal winners from the Olympics in 2004 in the line-up, jumped out to a 45-36 lead at half-time.
But Anthony, and NBA Finals MVP Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat - both captains on this World Championship squad - led the team back in the second half.
Both combined to score 61 of the Americans' points with Anthony doing most of his damage from three-point range where he buried five of seven attempts.
"We got a little bit hungry," said Anthony, who only managed six points in the opening half.
"We were down at half time so we knew that we couldn't play any worse than we were playing in the first half.
"Italy were a great team and we knew that we just had to focus mentally, that's all it took for all of us guys to get out there and not let the game go."
One Italian player not in that Athens team, Marco Belinelli, scored on a dunk and was fouled on the play at the start of the second half and made the free throw for a 48-36 advantage.
Once Elton Brand dunked for a 55-54 advantage with 5:33 left in the third quarter, the Americans had the lead for good but it wasn't until Wade scored on a lay up for a 94-83 lead with 1minute and 13 seconds left that USA coach Mike Krzyzewski could breathe a sigh of relief.
Wade had 26, which meant that he and Anthony scored nearly two-thirds of the Americans' points.
Belinelli led his team in scoring with 25 points in defeat.
The Italians take on Puerto Rico on Thursday looking to defend the second position in the group.
"Anthony is a true champion, he guided his team to victory," said Italian experienced center Denis Marconato.
"He really made the difference." By Cindy Garcia-Bennett