SEATTLE, JULY 27 -- Just because U.S. basketball isn't invincible any longer doesn't mean the Americans aren't capable of thrashing one of the world's best teams. Even if that team is Oscar Schmidt's Brazil.
Schmidt scored his obligatory 38 points tonight, but he was pretty much a one-man show. Kenny Anderson and Billy Owens, two of the best college players in the nation, were just as prolific and their supporting cast was far superior in a 112-95 victory over Brazil in a Goodwill Games semifinal.
Team USA, behind Anderson's team-high 25 points, advanced to the gold-medal game (Sunday, 7 p.m.) against Yugoslavia, which defeated the Soviet Union, 84-78.
Syracuse's Owens, Georgia Tech's Anderson and Arkansas' Todd Day more than offset whatever Schmidt could do from the perimeter, and the United States won convincingly for the second straight time since losing to the Soviet Union on Tuesday.
These Goodwill Games have had few opportunities for drama. One was Carl Lewis's loss in the 100, and another was that U.S. loss in basketball to the Soviets. The large crowd that filed into the previously half-filled Seattle Coliseum tonight knew Brazil was capable of providing another piece of drama.
It's been three years since The Great Oscar scored 46 points to beat Denny Crum's U.S. team in the Pan American Games. But Brazil, having defeated Yugoslavia earlier in the week, appeared rejuvenated, and the Americans seemed vulnerable.
Forward Gersen Victalino's basket after an offensive rebound put Brazil ahead by 16-15 in the early minutes, and his free throws made it 17-16 after an Owens jumper.
But the United States, which missed 20 of 23 three-point shots in its first two games, made six of nine three-pointers in the first half. Day and Anderson each hit two and even center Alonzo Mourning popped a three.
While the United States was getting major contributions from Owens, Anderson and Day en route to a 58-45 halftime lead, Schmidt was about all Brazil had. His 19 points prevented a U.S. runaway by intermission, but his teammates missed 12 of 20 shots from the field.
Day, in addition to guarding Schmidt, had five assists, no turnovers and eight rebounds. He ran off the court to screams of "good defense" but was shocked to find Schmidt had scored 38. "I run off hearing people say, 'Good defense,' and then look at the box and see the guy has 38," Day said. "That's not good defense."
Owens said the 38 is misleading. "Last year he scored 46 on us down in Mexico and we beat them. We knew he was going to get his, so just shut down everybody else."
Schmidt, as he is wont to do, single-handledly changed the game midway through the first half. With Brazil trailing by 12, Schmidt hit a lean-in jumper, then a three-pointer to cut the U.S. lead to 38-30.
Tonight, though, Anderson (17 first-half points) was every bit his equal, starting the rally that helped the Americans build the lead back to 13 points at the half.
While it would have been good for these Games and good for the TBS ratings to have a U.S.-Soviet Union rematch, it was obvious very early in the first semifinal of the evening that Yugoslavia was a better team than the Soviets.
The Yugoslavs jumped out to a big lead by getting the ball inside to 6-foot-11 Dino Radja, whose 31 points on 12-for-20 shooting was the story of the game.
After the game, Radja said definitively that he will play for the Boston Celtics this winter. During the game he used some of the moves he learned last summer from future teammate Kevin McHale to abuse the soft Russian defense.
The Soviets mounted a late first-half comeback and kept the game close in the second half, but never could solve Radja or former San Antonio Spur Zarko Paspalj, who at 6-8 also was able to get inside for many of his 22 points. The Soviets couldn't get closer than four points down the stretch.
Alexander Gomelski, the former Soviet coach and now the federation president, knew exactly what his team's problem was: "We have no center, no big strong man."
Yugoslavia Coach Dusan Ivkovic wasn't overjoyed in victory, just as the Soviets weren't exactly depressed in defeat. Both teams said they treated this only as a warm-up event for the upcoming World Championships in Buenos Aires.
The Soviets got 21 points from 6-9 forward Valeri Tikhonenko, who is free to negotiate with the Atlanta Hawks, but he had little help. Soviet Coach Gomelski doesn't expect that to be a problem in Argentina come August. The Soviets say they will have the services of 6-9 Atlanta Hawks forward Alexander Volkov, and 1988 Olympians point guard Tiit Sokk and center Alexander Belostenny.