Four days ago, the Serbian men’s basketball team was undefeated at the 2019 FIBA World Cup and had beaten its four opponents by an average score of 103-63.
Now they’re out.
The Serbs lost to Spain in their final second-round game, 89-81, and faced undefeated Argentina in the first quarterfinal in Dongguan, China. The game was close, with Argentina taking a 25-23 lead at the quarter and 54-49 at the half.
But the Serbs came back to close the gap to just 68-67 at the end of three. A three-pointer by Marko Guduric gave Serbia a 70-68 lead, but Patricio Garino matched that triple to put Argentina up 71-70, and the teams went back and forth.
Garino made another jumper with 6:59 left to extend the Argentine lead to 76-72, then Luis Scola made a fadeaway jumper, then a layup, had a shot blocked, but Facundo Campazzo put in a floater in the lane and the lead was suddenly 82-73 with 4:39 to play.
Scola made two more layins to stretch the lead to 89-78 and a couple of free throws down the stretch and Argentina finished with a 97-87 win. In the all-important final quarter, Argentina shot 11-18 from the field and had five layins, while Serbia went 6-16, with 11 three-point tries, but with only three makes.
Scola led Argentina with 20 points, followed by Campazzo with 18 and Garino with 15; the team shot 53.7% from the field. Serbia was led, as usual, by guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, who scored 21, with 18 from Nemanja Bjelica and 16 from Nikola Jokic. Even with a 42-29 rebounding edge, Serbia shot only 41.8% from the field.
Said Garino, “We believed it. It wasn’t impossible. We have a great team and we have great energy. The way we played today is an example of what we want to do over the years. We weren’t afraid. We played hard. We have terrific players. It wasn’t impossible and we figured it out.”
Argentina will now move on to play the winner of the U.S. and France quarterfinal, coming tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time (televised on ESPNNews).
In the other quarter, Spain continued its run after its big win vs. Serbia. After taking a 46-41 lead into halftime, the Spanish turned up the pressure and held the Poles to just 37 points in the second half. Spain’s lead grew to 12 points in the third quarter and they cruised in with a 90-78 victory, holding Poland to 48.3% from the field, while shooting 50.0% themselves.
Guard Ricky Rubio led Spain with 19 points and nine assists, followed by Willy Hernangomez Geuer with 18 and Rudy Fernandez for 16. Poland was led by A.J. Slaughter with 19.
The Spanish will play the winner of the Australia-Czech Republic quarterfinal on 13 September in Beijing.