A full schedule on the last day of the FIBA World Cup 2014’s group stages brought another round of exciting action as the best hoops nations in the world continued the festival of Basketball that has been week 1 of the competition. Fans in host country Spain and beyond were treated to the full bag of emotions, including tense historic overtime victories, crushing defeats, and qualification clinching wins.
The best players in the world hit the court around Spain to decide the groups and delivered the following results on Day 5.
France booked a place in the next round after scraping past a tough Iran 76-81 to hold a 3-2 record in Group A, while Iran slips to 1-4 in the table. If Iran could have won the game it would have been one of the upsets of the tournament so far, but ultimately it was not to be. The team from the Middle East got off to the better start, shocking Les Bleus through the first quarter to lead 23-13 after ten minutes. In the second half the French stood up and found better touch to win the stanza 10-24, reclaiming the lead at halftime (33-37). The third term put France further in front as the Europeans extended to 49-63 at half hour. Iran was hot in the final quarter, winning the stint 27-18 but ultimately falling short.
After already qualifying for the next round, Brazil brought some huge game to the hardwood in Bilbao, destroying Egypt 128-65. The Egyptians now leave the FIBA World Cup 2014 without a win, while Brazil holds a 4-1 record. The Brazilians started as they intended to go on with one of the most explosive quarters of the competition so far. The South Americans downed 37 points to lead 37-10 at the first break. A 30-13 second gave Brazil a huge 67-23 lead at the midway point, and although Egypt won the third stanza (24-25) Brazil went again in Q4, knocking down another 37 points.
Spain capped off the end of the group stage by keeping their perfect, now 5-0 record intact. Spain took down Serbia 73-89. Pau Gasol once again led his team to victory with 20 points and four rebounds in another efficient scoring performance. Spain seized the initiative in the game with a strong first quarter, establishing a commanding 14-point lead (20-34). They added five more points to their advantage by the halftime whistle sounded (35-59). Serbia tried to catch up in the second half, but could not do enough to erase Spain’s lead, despite an impressive double-double from Nemanja Bjelica who scored 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. Serbia will still advance to the next round with their 2-3 record.
Despite losing 79-81 to the Philippines, Senegal still progressed to the next round with a 2-3 record in Group B, while their opponents leave the competition. However, this game was all about the Philippines as the country won its first game in FIBA’s flagship event since 1978, and it has only taken 30+ years to do so! History was made on the court in Seville, although Senegal led the game 19-13 after ten minutes only to collapse 5-24 in the second frame (24-37 at halftime). The Africans amassed 40 points in the second half and halted the Philippines at 27 to tie the game 64 apiece after regulation. In the added stanza the baskets rained, but the Asian team held firm to win 15-17 and celebrate a historic moment.
Croatia claimed a place in the next stage with a comfortable 103-82 victory over Puerto Rico, ending with a 3-2 record while their opponents prop up Group B in last place (1-4). The European team looked better through the opening exchanges, with slick attacks pacing them to a 28-16 lead at the first split. The Croatians continued in the ascendancy throughout the second stint, pouring in another 25 points to hold a commanding 53-36 lead at the long break. Puerto Rico had no answer as their perimeter defense faltered and Croatia dominated in the paint at both ends, winning the third 31-21 for a huge 84-57 lead with ten minutes to go. The game had been won before Puerto Rico took the last frame 19-25, the Croatians in cruise control.
Greece joins Spain and the USA as the only three teams to end the group stage undefeated. They took down Argentina 71-79, thanks to some impressive control of the paint. Greece was aggressive, constantly attacking the basket with every opportunity. They also outrebounded the Argentinian squad 41-22. Nick Calathes was left uncontested and led Greece with 18 points. His teammate, Ioannis Bourousis had the best all-around performance in the game with 16 points, 15 rebounds, and three blocks! Argentina’s Luis Scola had an off shooting night, going 6-of-17 from the field, but he still racked up 17 points and five rebounds. Argentina will move on to the next stage, carried by their 3-2 group stage performance.
Team USA had arguably its toughest test of the FIBA World Cup 2014 so far as they came up against a spirited Ukraine in Bilbao. The US clinched victory 71-95, but needed some big quarters to get the job done, while in the process the team took top spot in Group C. The Ukraine shocked the favourites with a strong opening gambit, looking consistent at both baskets to lead 19-14 at the first buzzer. The US showed their class in Q2 by knuckling down and finding a rhythm to win the frame 13-30 and hold a halftime lead of 32-44 after 20 minutes. A tight third quarter kept Ukraine in touch, but the USA extended to lead 54-69 at the last split, eventually outlasting their European opponents to clinch the victory and record a clean sweep of the group.
Turkey joined the USA in the next round after defeating the Dominican Republic 77-64, although the Dominicans also qualify in fourth place. An edgy first frame saw both teams exchange baskets through the 10 minutes, but Turkey ended the period with a slender 14-13 lead. The Europeans erupted in the second quarter, sinking 27 points and cutting mean in defense to allow only 10 points against. At the midway buzzer Turkey had opened a 41-23 lead to look good for the win. The Dominican Republic recovered after the break but the Turks had the momentum, scraping a tight Q3 19-18 to set up and easy fourth quarter that clinched the win.
New Zealand ended its FIBA World Cup 2014 group stage on a high with a narrow 65-67 win over the eliminated Finland to progress to the round of 16. The All Blacks found the early touch in the game, outlasting the Finnish in the open term to lead 12-18 at the first rest. Finland upped the scoring in the second quarter, but New Zealand followed suit to lead 32-44 as the players headed into the locker room. The action slowed in the third quarter as the buckets dried for both teams, the frame ended in a 13-13 tie and the scoreboard reading 45-57. New Zealand needed most of their 12 point cushion in the fourth quarter as Finland sent 20 points to win the frame 20-10, but the All Blacks held on in a tense finale to win the game.
After a shaky group stage Australia qualified to the round of 16 despite losing 83-91 to Angola in Gran Canaria on Day 5. The Aussies started the game well enough, controlling the floor during the first stanza to lead 22-17 after 10 and then continuing in the second frame with a 20-12 stint (42-29 at halftime). Whether Australia crumbled or Angola found a hot streak is unimportant, because the Africans piled in 34 points during the third nonetheless. The 23-34 run turned the game around, with the score at 65-63 as the last split arrived. Angola continued with the momentum in the fourth quarter, winning it 18-28 to snatch the victory.
Another historic piece of World Cup memory was created on Day 5 as Mexico progressed to the next stage for the first time in its history with a 71-87 success over winless South Korea. The Centrobasket champions opened the game in control and with a clear purpose, moving to an 11-18 lead at the opening buzzer. By time the teams headed in for the long break, the Mexicans had dealt with an improved South Korean effort to lead 30-40. The team made that double digit lead count in the third quarter to win it 17-21 and extend to 14 points at 47-61 after 30 minutes. Another winning frame in the fourth quarter set the scene for an historic moment in Mexican Basketball.
In the Group D decider, Lithuania handed Slovenia its first defeat to jump past their rivals to top the table, both teams with a 4-1 record. The first quarter showed that both teams wanted the win despite qualifying, with a high scoring and exciting frame ending 22-24 in Slovenia’s favour. The second quarter saw the Slovenians pile more pressure on Lithuania to open an impressive 36-44 lead at the midway buzzer. A very narrow third quarter saw the Lithuanians claw a point back to put the counter at 55-62 with ten minutes to play. Slovenia fell apart in the fourth frame, scoring just 2 points to hand Lithuania the win and the group.