They were out of bed at 5 a.m., jogging to breakfast at 6, and on the court of the Universiade Pavilion two hours later for an early morning game against West Germany.
But the Americans didn't really wake up until six minutes were left in the game and their undefeated record was clearly in jeopardy. That's when the U.S. women's basketball team that Coach Jill Hutchison calls "the perfect blend of experience with novice" took control and held the Germans to five points for the rest of the game, for a 86-71 victory.
"I wouldn't consider this a really good early morning team," Hutchison said. Many observers here consider her team, playing early or late, the favorite to win the gold medal in these World University Games.
Hutchison, innovative as coach at Illinois State, has assembled a rare team without name stars; a team good enough to come within one point of defeating the U.S. Pan Am team that recently beat the Soviet Union.
There are Monica Lamb, 6-foot-5, who will be a freshman at Houston this fall, and another high school player, Tresa Spaulding, 6-7, who will attend Brigham Young. Neither had played in international competition before this week.
But there is experience where it is needed--in the back court. Lea Henry, the playmaking point guard who has led Tennessee to three appearances in the final four, is at the point. She shoots only when the opposition dares her, as the Germans did foolishly today. The wing guard is Joyce Walker from Louisiana State who needs no encouragement to shoot once she crosses half court.
Then there are the two "old ladies" of the team, Carol Menken-Schaudt, 25, who played at Oregon State, and team captain Trudi Lacey, 24, a former all-America from North Carolina State. They help Hutchison coach as much as play. The other regulars include Mary Ostrowski and Sheila Collins from Tennessee, Lori Scott from Louisiana Tech, Annette Smith from Texas and Deborah Temple from Delta State.
But, as Henry says, "everybody on this team is a regular. Coach Hutchison makes sure everybody plays."
The only name star on the team is Medina Dixon of Old Dominion, who did not play especially well in the tryouts and as a result is an alternate..
"It's not an accident that we have this blend," Hutchison said. "We wanted players who would be able to set aside personal ambitions. When we selected this team, one of the concerns was personal interaction. Right now, this is the most compatible group of women I've ever worked with."
Henry says, "It's a very unusual mix, especially for a summer team. Usually, on summer teams, everybody wants to play and do what she did on her college team. We haven't had any of that here."
"We're definitely a game team," Lacey said. "You should see our practices. You wouldn't believe we could play like that if you saw our (closed) practices."
"We seem to have trouble learning," Henry said. "We run a play the wrong way and you think, 'Oh no, we'll never get it right.' But somehow, we run it well on game day."
The Germans ran most of their plays correctly the first 34 minutes. The U.S. couldn't stop guard Anna Aszalos (11 assists) from penetrating, then shooting the ball inside to Gabriele Neumann, 6-5, (15 points) and Heidi Wayment, 6-5, (17 points) who simply turned and shot over the shorter Americans.
Germany used that strategy well enough to hold a 48-45 lead at one point, and trail by only two points, 66-64 with six minutes to play. That's when Hutchison called a timeout and told her team to extend the defense further up the floor and force Aszalos to throw longer passes.
With the U.S. leading, 70-65 on two jumpers by Temple, Menken-Schaudt stole one of Aszalos' would-be assist passes and passed to Walker, who scored a layup and the subsequent foul shot for three of her team-high 16 points and a 73-65 lead with 4:40 remaining. That play was enough to boost the U.S. to a 3-0 record.
"The competition now will be competitive to the end," Henry said. "There aren't as many good teams here as some international competitions. But once you get to this point, there are always four or five good teams who will contend for medals."
Henry and Lacey are aware the Americans are expected to be the best of those. "I like those expectations, Trudi," Henry said to her teammate. "Don't you?"