The U.S. men's basketball team played its most competitive game to date in the World University Games today, and still won by more than 40 points.

In a game that took little more than an hour, former Mackin High School star Johnny Dawkins made seven of eight shots, scored a team-high 15 points and led the United States to a 100-52 victory over Australia.

The U.S. team is undefeated in five games. More important for the United States, as it begins to face legitimate competition, is the improvement of Ed Pinckney, Villanova's 6-foot-10 forward, and Eric Turner, the flashy point guard from Michigan.

Pinckney, who hadn't played especially well in the previous games, scored 12 points and got eight rebounds. Turner had 14 points and five assists. "I'm pleased with the way Eric Turner is playing," said U.S. Coach Norm Stewart. "His shooting is coming on."

The victory clinched a berth in the medal round for the United States with Cuba, Yugoslavia and Canada.

Meanwhile, in swimming, there were more near-misses for the U.S. team. Larry Hayes' time of 3:54.93 was faster than the old Universiade record, but five seconds behind Vladimir Salnikov, who won yet another gold medal for the Soviets.

By late tonight, the Soviet Union had won more than twice as many medals as the United States, which was second in the medals race. The Soviets had taken 24 gold medals, eight silver and seven bronze for a total of 39. The Americans had won 18, but only two gold.

America's best chance to catch the Soviets in the number of overall medals will be in track and field, which started qualifying and preliminary rounds this afternoon at Commonwealth Stadium.

Terry Scott won his heat in the men's 100-meter dash with a time of 10.44 and Sam Graddy of Tennessee won the next heat with a mark of 10.45. Randy Givens of Florida State qualified for the semifinals of the women's 100 meter dash with the second-fastest time of the day by winning her heat with a time of 11:47.

Leo Williams of the Naval Academy had no trouble qualifying for the quarterfinals of the men's high jump. His major competition later this week will be Canada's Milt Ottey and Poland's Miroslaw Wogdarczyk.

Meanwhile, Soviet officials here hinted no decision had been made whether their country will compete in the 1984 Olympics.

"The final decision on our participation in the Los Angeles Olympics should be taken at a time when it is clear the local organizers have succeeded in assuring all of the regulations are followed," Nikolay Riashentzev, a Soviet Union Olympic Committee member, said today.

Leonid Drachevsky, another official of the Soviet team in Edmonton, had this response: "No decision has been made. I think it's a question nobody knows the answer to. It depends."