FIBA World Cup: Serbia flexes its muscles
Action is heating up in the 2019 FIBA World Cup. Six teams have already reached two wins and are now effectively assured of advancing to the next round of the tournament.
Leading the pack of six teams is Serbia, who punch their tickets after a 126-67 dismantling of the Philippine team. Star players Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nikola Jokic only needed to play 18 minutes each as their teammates handily took care of business on both ends of the floor.
Serbia led from the get-go and were never challenged by the Filipinos. Nemanja Bjelica was absolutely flawless as he connected on all of his shots from literally everywhere, going 7-of-7 from the field (3-of-3 from 3-point range) and 3-of-3 from the free throw line for a game-high 20 points. He paced a still-balanced attack by his team, with six other Serbian players scoring in double figures.
The Philippines can chalk this one up to a learning game and hopefully, be able to use the experience towards improving the team and their basketball program. Jaymar Perez and Paul John Dalistan scored 16 and 15 points, respectively, but were the only members of Gilas Pilipinas who hit double-figure scoring. Former NBA big man Andray Blatche, who has had extensive experience playing in the Chinese CBA, was limited to scoring five points on 2-of-10 shooting from the field.
The was a statement-making game for Serbia as they look to assert their dominance in global hoops.
Aside from Serbia, Argentina, Italy, Poland, Russia and Spain are set to advance after recording wins on Monday night.
Poland earned their berth the hard way, needing an overtime period to finally defeat tournament hosts, China 79-76.
Mateusz Ponitka stuffed the stat sheet in a major way as he led Poland to victory with 25 points, nine rebounds, three assists, two steals and four blocks. His impressive two-way performance was a key factor in his team’s success.
Italy made short work of Angola as they came through with a 92-61 blowout win to guarantee their advancement in the FIBA World Cup.
Veteran sharpshooter Marco Belinelli paced the Italians with 17 points, knocking down 3-of-6 long-bombs from deep.
In a contrast of approaches, Yanick Moreira led Angola with 15 points but did most of his damage from close range.
In an all-Latin showdown, Spain emerged victorious over Puerto Rico 63-73. Marc Gasol put on display why he’s regarded as one of the most talented and well-rounded centers in the world today. He led Spain with 19 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Making the paint unwelcome territory for the Puerto Rican big men.
Puerto Rico actually took control of the game early, ending the first quarter with a 21-17 advantage. Spain would storm back in the second quarter and keeping things close with a one-point lead at the half.
The turning point in the game came in the third quarter when Spain opened up their lead thanks to a massive run. Their defensive pressure was on point and Spain outscored Puerto Rico 10-21 in that quarter to the game out of reach.
Russia won over Korea 73-87 and will be moving on in the FIBA World Cup. Guan Ra dropped another big game for Korea with 19 points and 10 boards, but Russia was not to be denied. They had 26 assists to Korea’s 19.
Andrey Vorontsevich and Vitaly Fridzon lead the Russian squad with 13 points apiece.
Luis Scola scored a game-high 29 points to lead Argentina to an 81-94 win over Nigeria. Argentina is looking good so far and can be considered one of the dark horses in the competition.
Josh Okogie put up an excellent all-around effort, recording 18 points, five assists, three steals and two blocks. Nigeria will need him to deliver more games like this one if they’re to get scrappy and squeak out a couple of wins to move on.
The other games on tap saw Venezuela beat out Cote d’Ivoire 87-71 and Tunisia defeating Iran 79-67.
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