Team USA gets day off as it awaits next four FIBA foes

Updated: August 26, 2003, 11:27 AM ET

By Chris Bernucca SportsTicker Pro Basketball Editor

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - This is what the home-court advantage is all about.

Host Puerto Rico has the most favorable schedule and Canada received an extremely tough draw for the second round of the FIBA Tournament of the Americas, which begins Monday with Team USA still the overwhelming favorite.

Puerto Rico is the only team of the eight still alive for three Olympic berths that has at least 24 hours between all of its games. Beginning Monday, the hosts play at 7:30 p.m. EST for three straight nights before facing Team USA at 10 p.m. Thursday.

Canada, which is halfway through an unbelievably grueling stretch of eight games in eight days, faces Team USA at 10 p.m. Monday. It plays again at 10 p.m. Tuesday against Brazil, then must return to Roberto Clemente Coliseum on Wednesday for a 2:30 p.m. tip-off vs. the Dominican Republic.

No other team in this tournament has had to play a 10 p.m. game followed by a 2:30 p.m. game.

The host nation is allowed to pick its starting times and opponents for first-round games. However, once the second round begins, FIBA rules state the top seed from one group plays the four seeds from the other group from worst to best as the round progresses, closing with the opposing group winner.

Argentina (4-1) won Group A while the United States (4-0) won Group B. The teams should have met Thursday but instead will meet Tuesday at 5 p.m. in a highly anticipated matchup.

"I think Argentina is a team, that as the tournament goes on, is going to get better and better," Team USA coach Larry Brown said.

For now, the U.S. must guard against looking past Canada, which features Dallas Mavericks All-Star guard Steve Nash and former St. John's player Rowan Barrett, the tournament's leading scorer.

Canada (3-1) is coming off Sunday's 108-72 victory over Mexico in which forward-center Peter Gaurasci and Mexico forward Eduardo Najera of Dallas were ejected for fighting. Both are expected to be suspended for Monday's contests.

Nash is leading the tournament in assists at 7.5 per game. Barrett has been outstanding, averaging 23.5 points after Sunday's stunning performance in which he was 7-of-7 from the field and 10-of-10 from the line for 27 points in just 17 minutes.

Team USA was off Sunday and did not practice. The Americans will be looking to regain the form that saw them average 108 points per game and win by 39.8 points in the opening round.

On Saturday, Team USA ran its record with NBA players in international competition to 63-3 with a 113-55 rout of the winless Virgin Islands, which was eliminated. Allen Iverson of the Philadelphia 76ers scored 17 points to lead seven players in double figures.

"We want to come out impressive in every game and also lead by example," Indiana Pacers forward Jermaine O'Neal said. "Everybody expects us to win. Obviously we're not going to win by 60 points every night, but it's been going our way for us and hopefully it'll continue to go our way for us."

While Canada will be without Gaurasci, the U.S. gets back two-time NBA MVP Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs. The superstar forward sat out Saturday's win over the Virgin Islands, his native land.

Before Team USA took the floor, Puerto Rico (2-2) used a strong second half to pull away for an 84-59 rout of Venezuela (0-4). Guards Elias Ayuso and Eddie Casiano combined for 34 points for the hosts, who limited Venezuela to 36 percent (22-of-60) shooting.

Argentina tuned up for Tuesday's showdown with the United States with a 76-72 victory over Brazil (2-2) in a meeting of heated South American rivals.

"It is very clear they already are trying to pressuring me because of the United States team," Argentina coach Ruben Magnano said through an interpreter. "We're not going to think about that now. We know they're a tough team."

In notching its fourth straight win, Argentina showed some toughness. After building a 12-point lead in the fourth quarter, the Argentines saw the advantage whittled to 74-72 with 33 seconds left on two free throws by Alex Ribeiro, who scored 12 points, including Brazil's last six. But a pair of smart passes led to former NBA player Ruben Wolkowyski's inside basket with 17 seconds to go.

Fabricio Oberto and Andres Noccioni scored 14 points apiece for Argentina (3-1), which avenged a pair of losses to Brazil in this year's South American Championships. Anderson Varejao scored 16 points and Phoenix Suns rookie Leandro Barbosa added 15 for Brazil, which had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Playing without suspended forward Eduardo Najera of the Dallas Mavericks, Mexico raced to a 15-point halftime lead and cruised to a 100-91 victory over the Dominican Republic. Najera was suspended one game by FIBA for fighting with Peter Gaurasci in Sunday's first-round loss to Canada.

The Mexicans did not miss their best player as they pushed around the smaller Dominicans inside. Victor Mariscal and Omar Quintero each scored 21 points, center Horacio Llamas had 21 and nine rebounds and Jesus Benitez added 18 and 14 for Mexico (2-2), which held a 43-33 advantage on the glass.

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index