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THE SEOUL GAMES / DAY 6 : Women’s Basketball : U.S. Starts Slowly, but Edwards Sparks a 101-74 Victory Over Yugoslavia

Times Staff Writer

Wake-up call for Miss Edwards, wake-up call for Miss Edwards.

The score is Yugoslavia 16, United States 8, the American shots aren’t falling and the Yugoslavs are playing bumper pool with your teammates. Have a nice day.

Thus did another call go out for Teresa Edwards, leading lady of the U.S. basketball team and perhaps a larger sphere than that. And thus did she answer: she scored 17 points in the first half as the Americans rallied then characteristically stopped firing and settled for a game-high 23 as the United States routed the Yugoslavs, 101-74, to go 2-0 and assure itself of making the medal round.

It was the first time a U.S. women’s team had ever scored 100 points at the Olympics, and it didn’t come easily. Ex-Trojan Cynthia Cooper had to nail an 18-footer on a fast break with 2 seconds left to get the United States over the top.

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But back to Edwards.

In the absence of Cheryl Miller, another call has gone out for a new best-woman-player-in-the-world. Candidates include Hortencia of Brazil and Edwards. Hortencia is a gunner in the flashy, Oscar Schmidt style and more--she recently appeared in a 10-page pictorial in the Brazilian Playboy, out of uniform, as they might say in the magazine--but the Brazilians aren’t here.

That leaves Edwards, but could she care?

No, she says.

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“She would never talk about it at all,” said teammate Teresa Weatherspoon. “Teresa just goes on the floor and does her job. As for all the publicity, she doesn’t care about it. She’d love to be considered No. 1, but she would never stand before you and tell you.

“Is this the best she’s ever played? This is her. This is Teresa Edwards. When she played on these teams before, she played behind the limelight of Cheryl. Teresa is emerging now. It’s really nice to see that.”

For the United States, it was really opportune, too. The American women were off to another slow start Thursday, and they were already coming off an unimpressive opening victory over Czechoslovakia. The Yugoslavs were 1987 champions of the World University Games, so this was when the American women were going to have to show what they had.

Like their quickness. The United States is not the biggest team here, and it is the most ambitious, so it had better be the quickest. The Czechs cruised through what passed for the Americans’ pressure defense, so U.S. Coach Kay Yow started the quicker Weatherspoon at point guard Thursday instead of Kamie Ethridge.

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The Yugoslavs counted on pounding the ball inside to their 6-foot 6-inch, 220-pound center, Razija Mujanovic, and other kinds of pounding, but the United States forced them into 11 first-half turnovers. And after the Americans took a 17-16 lead, Mujanovic was lost, falling to the floor with a right knee injury. She returned in the second half, and her replacement, the 6-foot 5-inch, 209-pound Polona Dornik scored 11 points and had 9 rebounds, but it was never the same.

“Coach Yow got a little frustrated with us,” Edwards said afterward. “She got on us about playing defense. And finally we played some.

“Yeah, I think I’m playing the best ball I’ve ever played. I won’t ever wear the red, white and blue again. It’s very special to me, and it’s sad in a way. I love playing. I love representing the United States. I’d just like to win that gold medal and get on the stand.”

Basketball Notes

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Puerto Rico’s crusade to bag an elephant continues. In 1976, it fell 1 point shy of upsetting the U.S. men in Montreal in the famous Butch Lee game. On Wednesday night, the Puerto Ricans had the Soviet men down and out, leading by 10 points with 6:30 left, but then they missed their last 7 free throws and lost in overtime, 93-81. Four of the misses were by ex-University of Alabama-Birmingham forward Jerome Mincey. The last 2, with 9 seconds left in a tied game, were by Mario Morales, the team’s best outside shooter. . . . The Soviets were led by 6-foot 5-inch guard Sharunas Marchiulenis, who scored 32 points, including 26 after halftime. “No Marchiulenis, not possible victory,” Soviet Coach Alexander Gomelsky said. . . . Gomelsky held center Arvydas Sabonis out. Sabonis got 17 points and 20 rebounds in his second game here, but Gomelsky says he is tired, after having been away so long. Gomelsky only speaks a little English, and was unable to explain why, if Sabonis couldn’t help, he used him against the Yugoslavs, or if Sabonis could, why he didn’t bring him in against Puerto Rico.


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