The United States is expected to be in Saturday's gold medal basketball games at the World University Games. That's the way it goes when you're the dominant country in the sport and the tournament is being held on your soil.
The U.S. women beat Russia 72-55 Monday for their fourth straight win and the American men went to 3-0 a few hours later with a 93-64 victory over Ireland. Both games were the first of the three-game qualifying round after which four of the eight teams advance to the semifinals."The games do get tougher once you are out of pool play, and Russia is a fine team," said U.S. women's coach Joan Bonvicini of Arizona. "We have Cuba next and we know they're a very good team. This team knows it can't reach its goal of a gold medal without taking care of things in the qualifying round."
The U.S. baseball team also needs to take care of things early, but it didn't do so Monday night, falling to Japan 4-3. The Americans are 3-1 and still in good shape to qualify for the medals round.
Asked if he suspected there would be an upset somewhere along the way, U.S. coach John Anderson said, "I think as a coach you worry about that. You try to prepare your team to play. You don't play these guys that much. It's not like you get a chance to scout them."
It took a while for the U.S. women to take care of things against Russia (2-2). The United States struggled against the matchup zone and only led 58-53 with 3:33 to play. Pressure defense, some Russian foul trouble and extensive depth led to a 14-2 closing run.
"Their zone hurt us early and we weren't shooting as well as we had been," Bonvicini said. "Eventually our defense wore them out and they had foul problems. The constant pressure just wore them down."
Adrienne Goodson of Old Dominion had 20 points to lead the United States, which outscored Russia 24-9 from the free throw line and finished with a 39-16 rebounding advantage. The U.S. team shot just 24-for-69 from the field, including 0-for-11 from 3-point range.
The U.S. men, meanwhile, had a 63-48 lead over Ireland (2-1) with 10:42 to play. That may sound like a blowout, but the Americans' first two opponents never were closer than 28 points in the second half.
"Ireland had a good game plan of changing defenses to create problems and we were impatient on offense," said U.S. coach Reggie Minton of the Air Force Academy.
Richard Scott of Kansas led the United States with 21 points on 8-for-9 shooting. Carlos Rogers of Tennessee State added 13 points and Sharone Wright of Clemson had 11.
Frank Powell, who played at Holy Cross and is one of eight American college players on the Irish roster, finished with 17 points.
"We have to be pleased with the outcome," Ireland coach Enda Bert said. "It was a decent test for the United States."
But the only passing grade will be a gold medal for both U.S. teams.
Also expected to romp to gold at the first WUGs held in the United States is the American women's soccer team. With four members of the squad that won the 1991 World Cup, the United States beat Taiwan 3-1 Monday and is 3-0. The Americans have scored 16 times and allowed only one goal.
The women's volleyball team also won, taking Japan 15-10, 15-6, 15-8 to improve to 4-0. Romania is the only other unbeaten team.
The all-around title in women's gymnastics went to Tatiana Lisenko of Ukraine, who won a gold and a bronze medal at the 1992 Olympics. She edged countrywoman Lyudmilla Stovbchataya and Belgian Benedicte Evrard. Stephanie Woods of Alabama finished fourth.
The medals count through Monday had the United States on top with 17: 8 gold, 6 silver, 3 bronze. Japan was next with 12.