Spain Ousts Serbia & Montenegro
Spain 87, Serbia & Montenegro 75 (F)
SAITAMA, Japan, August 26 (Ticker) -- Jose Calderon triggered a great start and Spain never was threatened in an 87-75 victory over Serbia & Montenegro that eliminated the two-time defending champion in the round of 16 at the World Championships.
Pau Gasol had 19 points and 15 rebounds and Rudy Fernandez scored 18 points off the bench for Spain (6-0), which continued its unbeaten march through the tournament. It set up a quarterfinal showdown with Lithuania, a rematch of the 2003 EuroBasket final.
"We made some mistakes, sometimes let Serbia & Montenegro get into the game again and score points," Spain coach Pepu Hernandez said. "But we will learn from the lessons from today's game and apply them for the quarterfinal."
A member of the Toronto Raptors, Calderon collected 13 points and four assists. He did most of his damage early as he proved too quick for Vule Avdalovic, getting to the basket for a layup or drawing the defense and finding an open teammate for an easy basket.
The point guard had eight points and assisted on the other five as Spain raced to a 13-4 lead.
"It was very important for us to get an early advantage and I think we have taken a step forward in the sense that not only can we take a lead, but we can maintain it and control the game," Sapin coach Hernandez said.
Spain took its first double-digit lead at 18-8 on Jorge Garbajosa's 3-pointer, and the bulge grew in the second quarter as Spain got a lift off the bench from Fernandez, Alex Mumbru and Marc Gasol. A free throw by Pau Gasol made it 31-16 midway through the period.
"Spain was too strong for us," Serbia coach Dragan Sakota said. "We opened the game very badly and there was some kind of problem in the first half that we couldn't get through, so the game was decided in the first half."
In the third quarter, Juan Carlos Navarro took over for his backcourt mate and made sure Spain was not caught napping. He scored all of his team's points in a 7-2 spurt that pushed the margin to 52-33.
Winners of the 1998 and 2002 Worlds as Yugoslavia, Serbia & Montenegro got no closer than the final margin as Fernandez took charge in the final period with a pair of 3-pointers.
Spain lost its first elimination game after going unbeaten in group play in the 2004 Olympics but has cleared that hurdle this time around. Now it looks to clear another and avenge its loss to Lithuania in the Eurobasket 2003 final.
"It will be another hard game because Lithuania are physical and have a long basketball tradition," Hernandez said.
It marked the fifth time in as many years that Serbia & Montenegro has lost to Spain in an international competition.
The Serbs have changed dramatically since their last world title, shifting to a younger team after failing to get out of group play at the 2004 Olympics and 2005 Eurobasket.
"We knew before the tournament started that we weren't going to be favorites," said Sakota, whose team received one of the four wild cards into this eevnt. "We came here mostly to gain some experience."
Part of that transformation has been the emergence of Orlando Magic forward Darko Milicic, who had 18 points, 15 rebounds and three blocks.
"I was happy with the play of Milicic, not only today but during the entire championship," Sakota said. "He needs more time to be more respected by officials and we consider him as our best player at this moment."