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U.S. Basketball Takes Sixth Title

July 12, 1999

PALMA DE MALLORCA, Balearic Islands (AP) _ The streak continues for United States men’s basketball team, but the U.S. women head home without gold.

After a close call in the semifinals, the U.S. men wrapped up their sixth straight World University Games gold medal and 40th straight win _ both records _ by routing Yugoslavia 79-65 Monday night in the final.

Cincinnati’s Kenyon Martin led the U.S. with 21 points, several off thunderous dunks against the outsized and outclassed Yugoslavs.

Forward Mladen Sekularac, the only member of the Yugoslavian team who plays in the country’s first division, had a game-high 31 points in the men’s final.

``They kept running plays for him, isolating him. That hurt their team. When we locked them down defensively, the game was pretty much over,″ said U.S. head coach Oliver Purnell, an assistant on the 1995 University Games squad that featured recent NBA Finals MVP Tim Duncan and league scoring leader Allen Iverson.

The current crop of college stars _ five of the 12 team members have NCAA Final Four experience _ struggled. The opener against South Korea was tight early in the second half, Canada led at halftime in their quarterfinal matchup, and Saturday’s semifinal against host Spain was a two-point game with 20 seconds to go.

``We invented the game, so our guys certainly expected to get the gold,″ said Purnell, who coaches at University of Dayton. ``But it wasn’t easy.″

``Everybody tried to play their ‘A’ game against us, and the international game is more physical than what we’re used to,″ said Kevin Freeman, a member of Connecticut’s NCAA championship team in April. ``But we stayed focused, because we didn’t want to be the U.S. team that didn’t bring home the gold.″

That distinction went to the U.S. women’s basketball team, which was upset by host Spain 57-48 in Monday’s final.

Spain, which won its first gold medal at the event, beat a U.S. squad that was without two starters.

The U.S. shot 27 percent for the field, including 1-of-12 from 3-point range in front of a hostile crowd at muggy Son Moix arena.

Rosaura Sanchez led Spain with 14 points, and Nieves Llamas added 13.

``The ball wasn’t falling for us, and we kind of put out heads down,″ said guard Katie Douglas, who led the U.S. with 14 points. ``If you’re not doing well on offense, you have to dig in on defense. We didn’t. We let them dictate things all game.″

Douglas is one of two U.S. players from NCAA champion Purdue University. The other, Camille Cooper, missed the gold medal game with the flu.

Spain hadn’t participated in the University Games since taking its only previous medal _ a silver _ in 1991.

Russia claimed the women’s bronze with a 77-71 defeat of Ukraine.

In other action on the penultimate day of this Olympics-style event, Romania’s Lonela Tirlea ran the year’s fastest time for the women’s 400 meters, and set a new University Games record in the process.

Tirlea, European champion in the 400 hurdles, clocked 49.98 seconds to win easily. Mikele Barber of the United States edged Nigeria’s Doris Jacob to take the silver with a time of 51.03. The Romanian was supposed to compete in the hurdles here, but said she didn’t arrive in time.

Other winners in track and field events included Yulia Taranova of Russia in the women’s 800 meters, Jerome Davis of the United States in the men’s 400, and Cuba’s Raul Duany in the decathlon.

In judo, South Korea won the men’s team event and France claimed the women’s title.

Brazil beat South Korea 5-4 on penalty kicks after supplemental time ended with the countries tied 2-2 to take the soccer bronze medal. Italy faced Spain later for the gold.

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