Basketball action continued in the Spain’s FIBA World Cup on third day with six matches played; two each in Group A and Group B. In less than two weeks from now, the first champion will emerge from the now re-branded FIBA World Cup. Day 3 saw Senegal causing a huge upset, a close match between Argentina and the Philippines and resounding victories by Spain, France, Serbia and Greece.
In the day’s biggest upset at Sevilla, Senegal scored a shock victory over Croatia. After they lost their first match to Greece on Saturday, the rejuvenated Senegalese played an inspired game on Sunday to beat Puerto Rico and on Monday, they went one step further to inflict an entirely unexpected defeat on Croatia. The Senegalese charge was brought about by NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves hero Gorgui Dieng, who scored 27 points and eight rebounds for Senegal. Despite the fighting Croats, who were also backed by two NBA players; Bojan Bogdanovic of Brooklyn Nets and Dario Saric of Philadelphia 76ers, each of whom scored 15 points for Croatia, Senegal was unstoppable in their stunning 77-75 victory over Croatia. As the match began, the two sides appeared to be evenly matched in the first quarter. But once Senegalese found their foothold, they continued to maintain their lead from second quarter onwards. Surprisingly, the Croats kept playing a catch-up game, scoring only when points were scored against them. This allowed the game to slip away from Croatia’s grasp. With three and half minute remaining in fourth quarter, Senegal led 68-62. At this juncture, Bojan Bogdanovic reeled off seven points in a row to bring the score to 70-69. With a little over 2 minutes remaining, it was anybody’s game. Having kept the pressure all through, Senegal was not about to give up. Gorgui Dieng took control and sank a crucial layup and only a minute and half remained. Then Senegal managed a split from the line but the Croatia’s Oliver Lafayette scored a three-pointer. But with 21 seconds left, Croatia still trailed 73-72. Senegal’s Xane Dalmeida made two from the line to give Senegal a 75-72 lead with time running out. But Kunoslav Simon missed a triple and Croatia fouled Senegal. From two free throws, Mamadou Ndoye sealed the victory with five seconds because Damjan Rudez’s triple at the buzzer could not have taken the score to a Croat victory. With Croatians failing to tie the game despite chances available to them in dying seconds, Senegal took the match 77-75. Senegal now have two matches left. After they play Argentina on Wednesday, they take on the Philippines on Thursday. The Africans look in command and it would come as no surprise if they march to the knock-out stage.
In another nail-biting contest at Sevilla on Monday, Argentina defeated the Philippines 85-81 in what looked like becoming another upset of the day. The Filipinos caused a big scare to the Argentinians by scoring many times from three-point range. That, the Philippine had a big fighting heart, was evident in their rebounding from a 10 point-deficit in fourth quarter to reduce the gap and push the tournament’s No.3 team to the brink in closing stages. In a burst of high energetic play, Ranidel De Ocampo scored on a layup and with his captain Jimmy Alapag, sank consecutive three-pointers. This brought the score to 71-69. The alarmed Argentinians had to come up with double three-pointers of their own to restore the lead to 77-69 with seven minutes remaining. But Philippines refused to give up and the combination of Gabe Norwood and Alapag cut the gap again to 79-76. The two sides played neck-to-neck with little time left and they were locked at 82-81. With seconds left, Argentina added three more points from free throws and ended the match with 85-81 win.
In a Group A match at Granada, Pau Gasol spearheaded Spain’s 82-63 win against Brazil by scoring 26 points. As the match began, Spain raced to a 15-4 lead and never looked back from there. Brazil found Pau Gasol too hot to handle as he dominated constantly, scoring not only from interior but even managed a great shot from outside. In the end Spain’s victory signaled that they would be the biggest threat to USA this FIBA World Cup.
In other matches on day 3, France outplayed Egypt 94-55; Serbia defeated Iran 83-70 and Greece outscored Puerto Rico 90-79 despite a late rally by the Puerto Ricans. After three days of engrossing action in the FIBA World Cup, Spain and Greece are the certainties for the round of 16 and Senegal look in a great position to join them unless they fare badly on Wednesday and Thursday.