MANNHEIM, Germany — The U.S. basketball team was playing Thursday night for a berth in the Albert Schweitzer Tournament semifinals, thanks to a 74-58 victory over Argentina on Wednesday.

“Intensity and focus,” made the difference, U.S. coach Lionel Hollins said after the U.S. rebounded from a lethargic 91-77 first-round loss to Greece on Monday.

Wednesday’s game was one of two for the Americans to determine if they would be among the two teams from a four-team qualification round to make Friday’s semifinals.

The second, against Spain, was to be played Thursday night, after this edition of Stars and Stripes went to press.

“Night and day” doesn’t begin to cover the difference in energy the U.S. showed Tuesday after Monday’s loss. Having a lot at stake made much of the difference, said Travis Releford of Kansas City, a Kansas Jayhawks recruit.

“Lose and go home, that’s the way we’re looking at it,” said Releford, who scored 19 points and snared 10 rebounds Wednesday. “We want to play for the medals — a good one, not the others.”

If the Americans, 10-time champions of this biennial international tourney for under-18-year-old players, can maintain the defensive intensity they showed in limiting previously unbeaten Argentina to 29 percent shooting from the floor, a good medal just might be in the offing.

The U.S. defense was particularly effective during the second quarter. Over that 10-minute span, the U.S. allowed the Argentines just 11 shots from the floor and held them to three points.

“That was our best defensive quarter of the tournament,” Hollins said. “We were able to take Argentina out of what they wanted to do.”

The Americans outscored Argentina 24-3 during the period to go up 34-16 at halftime.

“Once we got the big lead, we just coasted,” Hollins said. “They got back to nine [down] a couple of times, but I never felt we lost control. I never felt it would become a nip-and-tuck game.”

Once again, Irving Walker, the future Florida Gator from Middle Village, N.Y., topped the U.S. score sheet, this time with 21 points. That was one under his tournament-leading 22.0 average after four games. With four assists on Wednesday, Walker also maintained his tournament lead in that category, five per game.

Walker’s fellow guard Cashmere Wright of Savannah, Ga., a future Cincinnati Bearcat, had 16 points and five steals.

The U.S. also unveiled a new weapon, 6-foot-9 junior Brendan Lane of Rocklin, Calif. Lane shared game-rebounding honors with Floridian Wally Judge at 11 and scored five points.

“It helped to have an extra big man,” Hollins said of Lane, who had been playing in a tournament in France. “Having a big man who can play on the wing gave us more options than just having two big men in the middle.”

The tournament ends Saturday at the BFV Sports Arena here. The title game is at 4 p.m., the third-place tilt at 2, the fifth-place game at 11 a.m. and the seventh-place match at 9 a.m.

Albert Schweitzer Tournament

U.S.A. 74, Argentina 58

(Medal-round pool play Wednesday at Mannheim)

U.S.A. 10 24 19 21—74

Argentina 13 3 28 14—58

Scoring—U.S.A.: Irving Walker 21, Travis Releford 19, Cashmere Wright 16, Wally Judge 6, Brendan Lane 5, Oscar Bellfield 3, Anthony Stover 2, Jeffree Withey 2; Argentina: Facundo Campazzo 11, Nicolas Santiago Scala 11, Pablo Martin Orlietti 10, Alberto Ezekiel Manzanares 8, Juan Levrino 6, Mateo Gaynor 6, Federico Glinberg 4, Maximiliano Martin 2.

Rebounding—U.S.A. 49 (Judge 11, Lane 11, Releford 10), Argentina 39. Assists-U.S.A. 9 (Walker 5), Argentina 5. Blocks—U.S.A. 4 (Stover 3), Argentina 2. Fouls—U.S.A. 19, Argentina 26.

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