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Women’s Reversal of Fortune : Basketball: Less than 24 hours after its 42-game winning streak ended, U.S. team routs Argentina.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When the U.S. women’s basketball team finished its players-only meeting Sunday night--it had been called to discuss the loss hours earlier to Brazil, which ended the United States’ 42-game, nine-year winning streak--Coach Vivian Stringer of Iowa asked if anyone had anything to share with her.

“They said no, that they wanted to demonstrate by their actions,” Stringer said.

So all Stringer had to do Monday was sit back at the Sports City Coliseum and watch as the United States demonstrated its superiority over Argentina, 97-40.

That improved the United States’ record in the Pan American Games to 2-1 and guaranteed a berth in next weekend’s medal round and a potential rematch with Brazil.

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But first, the United States must finish its round-robin schedule Thursday against an inspired Cuban team before an anticipated capacity crowd of 12,000 in a game that Stringer predicted could be “one of the finest games ever in women’s basketball.”

“It’ll be like a boxing match,” she said. “We’ll be standing toe to toe, slugging it out.”

For entertainment, it will be difficult to improve on Sunday’s game, in which Brazil rallied from 18 points behind in the first half and won, 87-84, handing the United States its first loss in major international competition since the 1982 World Championships.

Stringer said after that game that she was concerned because the team’s two most experienced players internationally, guard Teresa Edwards and center Katrina McClain, were not at their best. Both are Olympic and Pan American Games veterans from Georgia.

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“The team looks to them for leadership, but they’re both tight,” she said. “They’ve got to set better examples.”

They did Monday, combining for 38 points. McClain also had 10 rebounds to go with her 20 points. Venus Lacy, a 6-4 center from Louisiana Tech who sat out Sunday’s game after spending Saturday night in the infirmary with a virus, had 13 points.

“I’d like to think anything negative can be turned into a positive,” Stringer said. “So the loss might have been the best thing for us. It could make us a lot more in tune with what we have to do.”

It was Argentina’s misfortune to play the United States less than 24 hours after its loss to Brazil, but it is possible that the outcome would have been the same whenever Argentina and the United States met. Argentina appears to be the worst of the five teams here, having lost its first game by 47 points to Cuba.

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“We’re here to learn,” Argentina Coach Eduardo Pinto said.

True to that purpose, even though his team was behind, 52-30, at halftime, he played his reserves, including two members of the junior national team, liberally in the second half.

In the final 20 minutes, Argentina had only three baskets and 10 points.


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