DONGGUAN, China -- Luis Scola scored 20 points, Facundo Campazzo finished with 18 points and 12 assists and Argentina earned its first trip to the World Cup semifinals in 13 years by ousting Serbia 97-87 in a quarterfinal matchup on Tuesday.
Patricio Garino added 15 for Argentina (6-0), which will face either the U.S. or France in Friday’s semifinals.
Serbia was considered the pre-tournament favorite by many, and came in expecting to win gold after losing title games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Argentina had other plans and Scola made a very loud statement after the game -- this outcome, he insisted, was no fluke.
“It just bothers me that people keep talking about miracle, keep talking about surprise, keep talking about nobody believing,” Scola said. “I’ll tell you, there were 22 people that believed for the last two months that we were going to be here. That’s all we need, just 22. We’ve got them and this is far from a miracle.”
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 21 points for Serbia (4-2). The team came into the tournament fully expecting to win gold -- after losing title games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Olympics, then rolling to wins in its first two games in China by a combined 105 points.
Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left got Serbia within 91-85, capping a spurt that came with All-NBA center Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets on the bench. But Campazzo’s jumper on the next possession pushed the lead back to eight, Serbia threw the ball away seconds later and the blue-and-white-clad Argentine fans in the stands knew it was time to celebrate.
Scola was 26 the last time Argentina was in the Final Four of the World Cup, then called the world championship. A mere 13 years later, he’s headed back to the medal round at FIBA’s biggest event.
Once known as team chock full of NBA players, Argentina was one of 15 countries in the FIBA World Cup to not have an active NBA player on its roster. Scola last played in an NBA game on Feb. 13, 2017 as a member of the Brooklyn Nets.
Nemanja Bjelica scored 18 and Jokic finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds for Serbia.
“We put a lot of work in this summer,” Bjelica said. “It’s hard. But it’s basketball. There are more important things.”
Argentina led most of the way, lost the lead briefly on the first possession of the fourth quarter when Marko Guduric made a 3-pointer for Serbia -- which the winners answered with a 19-6 run over the next 6 minutes.
Center Boban Marjanovic had a short and eventful second-quarter stint for Serbia -- picking up three fouls, one of them an unsportsmanlike, and committing a turnover in just over 2 minutes.
Additionally, the Olympic berth Argentina claimed by being one of the top two World Cup finishers from the Americas region -- the U.S. is the other -- is its fifth straight and eighth overall. In winning, Argentina also gets an extra day off and will have two full rest days before facing the U.S.-France winner.
Scola said Argentina's victory was a total team effort.
“I think we played a very good basketball game,” Scola said. “We’re a good team. We’ve played a great tournament and we deserved to win.”
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.