INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Team USA Wednesday faces what could be its toughest test at the World Basketball Championships when it takes on Argentina.
Since the second round began, the United States, Argentina and Puerto Rico are the only squads with 2-0 records. Puerto Rico is one game ahead of four nations for the lead in Group E, while the U.S. and Argentina are in Group F.
On Tuesday, the Americans put the clamps on New Zealand, 110-62, to clinch a spot in the quarterfinals.
After toying through the first half, Team USA held New Zealand scoreless for a 6:35 stretch late in the third quarter, rattling off 17 straight points to open a 72-48 lead.
Leading 75-52 entering the final period, the Americans again shut down New Zealand, this time for 3 1/2 minutes, building their lead to 31 points. New Zealand scored just 20 points in the second half, and shot 35 percent (23-of-65) from the field overall.
In the tournament, the U.S. is allowing an average of 71.2 points per game while holding foes to less than 40 percent shooting. It is outrebounding its opponents by 12 per game.
Miami center Sean Marks, New Zealand's best player, sat out with an eye injury as New Zealand fell to 0-2.
New Zealand led by as much as six points in the first half and trailed just 48-42 at halftime. Finley scored 16 points in the first half.
In other Group F games, Argentina kept pace with the U.S., knocking off Germany, 86-77. Andres Noccioni scored 19 points off the bench to lead five players in double figures for the Argentines, who have won all five of their games.
Germany's Dirk Nowitzki, the All-Star forward for the Dallas Mavericks and possibly the best player in the tournament, had 21 points and 10 rebounds, but he made only 3-of-17 shots, and was 0-for-8 from three-point range.
The Germans fell to 1-1 and face Russia Wednesday night.
OSU player facing criminal probe
COLUMBUS, Ohio, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Angelo Chattams, a junior wide receiver at Ohio State, has been given a excused absence to return to his hometown of Dayton, Ohio to answer to a theft allegation.
Dayton Police Chief Richard Barnhart has told a local newspaper that, as of now, no charges have been filed. A university spokesman said Chattams was excused to go home to confront a personal matter.
Media outlets in Ohio report that Chattams is a person of interest in connection with the theft of a set of golf clubs from a parked sports utility vehicle on July 29. The property value of the clubs was set at $500.
The case has yet to go before a grand jury. Barnhart did not release any other details to OSU Coach Jim Tressel.
"The only thing I know is, we had him go home to find out a little bit of what the situation is so that we can respond to it," Tressel told the Cincinnati Post.
Tressel said the matter is a "distraction."
"It's not unlike a game," Tressel said. "A fumble happens. Sometimes you can't find out right there in the game what happened. You've got to go to the next play."
Chattams, a 5-11, 185-pound sophomore, is the latest in an increasing number of OSU football players who have had to face adversity or criminal allegations this year.
As many as five players missed the team's season-opening game against Texas Tech on Aug. 24, and fullback Jesse Kline was forced to quit just before the Tech game because of continuing injuries.
The Buckeyes, ranked ninth in the latest ESPN/USA Today football coaches poll, host Kent State on Saturday.
Giants re-acquire 3B Bill Mueller
SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The San Francisco Giants Tuesday obtained third baseman Bill Mueller and cash from the Chicago
Cubs in exchange for 24-year-old minor league righthander Jeff Verplancke.
Mueller, 31, was the Giants' starting third baseman in 2000, when they won the National League West. He was traded to Chicago in November of that year and battled injuries in his
two seasons with the Cubs.
He joins a San Francisco squad on the verge of contention for the division title again this year, but very much in the thick of the wild-card
chase. He also gives Manager Dusty Baker a solid alternative to David Bell and a veteran presence on the bench.
"It's tough to leave here," Mueller said. "I've made an awful lot of close friends. But I'm going back to a place that's familiar, so it should make the transition a lot easier."
"Bill can help us," Baker said. "David Bell is doing a good job at third; now we can have another option, maybe a double switch. He has quite a few things to help us. I'm looking forward to seeing him here Wednesday."
Mueller is hitting .266 with 19 doubles, seven homers and 37 RBI in 101 games this season. He is a career .287 hitter over seven seasons.
Verplancke was 3-5 with three saves and a 3.78 in 51 games for Triple-A Fresno of the Pacific Coast League. He was the Giants' 11th-round selection in the 1999 draft.
Chargers sign free agent DB Lyle
SAN DIEGO, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The San Diego Chargers have added experience and depth to their secondary and special teams by signing veteran defensive back Keith Lyle to a one-year deal.
Lyle is a veteran of eight NFL seasons, including seven with the St. Louis Rams (1994-2000), and one in Washington (2001). His career totals include 89 starts in 121 games, 603 tackles, four sacks, 29 interceptions and 336 return yards, three forced fumbles, 60 passes defensed and 38 tackles on special teams.
With the Chargers, he will be reunited with new coach Marty Schottenheimer, who was the head man of the Redskins last season.
The former University of Virginia star played in all 16 games for Washington last season, garnering 25 tackles, one interception, and nine tackles on special teams.
The 6-2, 210-pounder also will be reunited with fellow defensive back Ryan McNeil. The two played together with the Rams in 1997 and '98.
Lyle had seven productive years with the Rams, which included five 100-plus tackle seasons and a win over Tennessee in Super Bowl XXXIV. He led the NFC and was tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions in 1996.
He was the Rams' third-round pick, 74th overall, in the 1993 draft.
Rams sign DB Chad Cota
ST. LOUIS, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The St. Louis Rams have come to terms with free agent safety Chad Cota on a one-year contract.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
Cota has been an NFL starter each of the past five seasons, spending the last three with the Indianapolis Colts, who released him in February.
He will enter his eighth NFL campaign, having also played for the Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints.
"We brought Chad in earlier in the year and we really liked him," said Rams Coach Mike Martz. "He gives us a veteran that has played at a very high level. We need his experience in the secondary."
The Rams placed No. 2 strong safety Steve Bellisari on injured reserve Monday, and he will be out for the season. Cota, 31, probably will fill that spot as the backup to starter Adam Archuleta.
Cota has played in 111 of a possible 112 games during his career and has averaged 113 tackles per season. The 6-foot, 196-pounder also has 15 interceptions.
Seahawks give LB Brown contract extension
SEATTLE, Sept. 4 (UPI) -- The Seattle Seahawks have announced they have re-signed veteran linebacker Chad Brown to a five-year contract extension.
Brown, 32, joined Seattle in 1997 as an unrestricted free agent from Pittsburgh and led the Seahawks in tackles from 1997-99.
"You've got to establish a core group of players that you really want here as long as I'm here, certainly, so they can finish their careers as Seahawks," said Coach and General Manager Mike Holmgren. "Chad is one of those players, so we have been working on this for a while and will continue to do it (with other veterans)."
Since arriving, he has started all 78 games he's played, missing one game in 1997 and '99, and no Seahawks player has more tackles than his 571 over that span.
He averages 114 tackles per year, which ranks him 10th all-time on the Seahawks list, and is just 119 tackles away from moving into fifth place ahead of Jeff Bryant, who has 689.
Also, Brown has 34 sacks with the Seahawks, putting him seventh all-time in that category, and has three fumble returns for touchdowns, which is tops on the Seahawks' all-time list.
He said his ultimate goal is to make the Seahawks a perennial contender.
"I came here to win and we haven't truly accomplished that yet," Brown said. "I'm not the type of person to just leave something behind just because it didn't work out. I want to keep working at it."
The three-time Pro Bowler finished with 150 tackles in 1998, second-highest single-season total in team history. Terry Beason made 153 in 1978. In his career, he has started 127 of 134 games played, totaling 870 tackles and 64 sacks.
"He's a Pro Bowl player. He's an outstanding football player," said Holmgren. "He's a relatively young man who has a few years left to play at a real high level."
Virginia Tech QB has knee scoped
BLACKSBURG, Va., Sept. 4 (UPI) -- Virginia Tech quarterback Grant Noel late Tuesday underwent an arthroscopic procedure on his left knee and will not start the Hokies' next game Sept. 12 against No. 18 Marshall.
Noel, who suffered a torn left ACL in spring practice, is listed as questionable for the Marshall game, leaving sophomore Bryan Randall as the starter.
"No one has worked harder to be part of our football team than Grant Noel," said Coach Frank Beamer. "We hope he'll be back for the Marshall game, but there is no guarantee of that."
"We think Grant will be better off for it," team trainer Mike Goforth told the Roanoke (Va.) Times. "Grant shouldn't have near as much pain in the knee as he has been experiencing before."
Noel tore the ACL in the knee on April 17 during spring practice. Goforth confirmed the ACL is partially torn during Tuesday's procedure.
He decided against reconstructive surgery in the spring, but eventually, he likely will need to have it done.
Randall split time with Noel in Sunday's 26-8 rout of LSU, completing 5-of-9 passes for 47 yards. Marcus Vick and Will Hunt will be listed as the backups behind Randall against the Thundering Herd.
Noel threw for 1,812 yards and 16 touchdowns last season.
Virginia Tech is 12th in the latest ESPN/USA Today coaches' poll.