HAVANA -- Basketball, American-style, which has been AWOL in Cuba during the Pan American Games, resurfaced yesterday.
The U.S. women's team decisively defeated Cuba 91-71 and in the process did what few U.S. athletes have been able to do: silenced another capacity crowd of 12,000 at Sport City Coliseum.
At 3-1, the Americans' prize is a semifinal rematch tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. against a Cuban team (2-2) that gave them trouble early but -- a common problem in a country with petroleum shortages -- simply ran out of gas.
Brazil (4-0) and Canada (1-3) are in the other semifinal. If the U.S. and Brazil win, they will meet Sunday in a rematch for the championship. Brazil upset the U.S. team 87-84 last Sunday.
"We just played ball," U.S. point guard Jennifer Azzi said in a deceptively enlightening comment.
The U.S. men -- who return to Cuba today to play the Bahamas after a two-day respite in Miami -- and women have not been playing their usual "ball" against international competition here.
Yesterday, Teresa Edwards hit Jordanesque layups, Katrina "Tree" McClain scored 17 second-half points and Azzi ignited the sputtering fastbreak. "It was their usual controlled intensity," said U.S. coach Vivian Stringer. "They don't ever want a team to dictate to them."
Former Georgia player McClain led all scorers with 23 points (69 percent shooting) and 12 rebounds, former teammate Edwards scored 19 and had eight assists, and former Stanford point guard Azzi added 13 points.