John Anderson scoffed at the notion Cubans are unbeatable in international baseball, even though nobody seems to beat them.
"I'm not a believer that they're that much better than anybody else," said the coach of the United States baseball team. "Don't get me wrong, they've won and they've won consistently. They're good, but they're not that good."The Cubans have been good enough to easily handle all five opponents they've faced in the World University Games. Anderson's team became the latest victim Wednesday, losing 7-2.
Anderson, who coaches at Minnesota, said he saw the Cubans in the Olympics, in the recent Intercontinental tournament in Italy and at these games.
"People talked last year about their national team playing against the American League," he said. "I don't believe personally, from what I saw over there (in Italy), that they could win a series against the American League.
"And I don't think they're 7-2 better than we were out there today - if you're talking just about pure talent," Anderson added.
Talent, however, was not all that beat the Americans and vaulted the Cubans into Friday's gold medal game. A lack of concentration - and Cuba's ability to take advantage of it - did.
First baseman Todd Helton dropped a throw that was right at his glove and would have been the first out of the second inning. The Cubans pounced on the mistake.
On second after Helton's miss ended up in the dugout, Roberto Colina scored when Gabriel Pierre singled. Jorge Garcia walked and then came home with Pierre on Juan Carlos Linares' double. Linares scored when Yobal Duenas tripled.
"You play a good team like Cuba and you make a mistake, they'll make you pay," Anderson said.
The Cubans added another run in the third and two in the seventh following back-to-back errors by shortstop Russ Johnson of Louisiana State.
The only U.S. runs came on solo homers by Mark Merila and Darren Grass, both of Minnesota, in the eighth.
The Americans are out of the running for the gold, but could make the bronze medal game Friday if Taiwan beats Japan and South Korea beats Italy.
The United States men's basketball team, meanwhile, continued its romp through the field with a 106-65 victory over Croatia. The Americans (5-0) shot 38-for-59 for the game (64 percent) and were 7-for-11 on 3s.
"I thought it was our best game of the tournament," coach Reggie Minton of the Air Force Academy said. "We shot well, defended and got them in foul trouble. We did a good job."
The U.S. women did a good job rebounding from a loss to Cuba with an 88-67 victory over Japan that qualified them for the semifinals. Tari Phillips of Central Florida had 25 points and nine rebounds, while Trisha Stafford of Georgia had 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Christine Stephenson of Georgia won her second swimming gold medal, taking the 1,500-meter freestyle. Earlier this week, she won the 800 free.
The United States also won its fifth straight relay, the women's 400 free.
The women's soccer team, with four members of the 1991 World Cup championship squad, made the finals with a 2-0 decision over Russia. Linda Hamilton scored in the 69th minute and Kristine Lilly connected nine minutes later.
The remaining Americans lost in tennis. Heather Willens of Stanford lost in the quarterfinals to Jing Yi of China 6-1, 6-1. So did Michael Sell of Georgia and Rob Givone of Georgia Tech, to Czechs Martin Dvoracek and Robert Jahl 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals.
The only gold medal in track Wednesday was for the women's 10,000-meter walk, which was won by Yuwen Long of China. Hungary handed the United States its first loss in water polo, 8-7.