Basketball: Stifling defence takes US, Serbia into Basketball World Cup semis

AFP , Tuesday 5 Sep 2023

The United States rebounded from their first defeat of the Basketball World Cup to demolish Italy on Tuesday and reach the semi-finals, while Serbia joined them after suffocating Lithuania.

U.S. forward Mikal Bridges (5) drives past Italy forward Simone Fontecchio (13) during the Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game between Italy and U.S. at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday Sept. 5, 2023. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)


The Americans beat Italy 100-63 to put their second-round loss to Lithuania two days earlier firmly in their rearview mirror and set up a showdown with either Germany or Latvia on Friday.

Mikal Bridges led the US in scoring with 24 points in Manila, and said the mantra heading into the game was to "set the tone".

"That's what the coach has been preaching to us," said the Brooklyn Nets forward, who also pulled down seven rebounds.

"The bench has been doing a pretty good job but I think the starters have been letting them down a little bit with a slow start.

"The coach got us prepared and we were just plain hungry."

The US stamped their authority on the game from the first tip, and were 10 points ahead by the end of the first quarter.

Tyrese Haliburton was the winning team's second-highest scorer with 18 points, followed by Austin Reaves on 12.

The pair provided two of the highlights of the game, with crowd favourite Reaves stuffing in a huge rebound dunk in the first half.

Haliburton conjured up another memorable moment in the second half, setting up Paolo Banchero for an alley-oop with a pass between his legs.

"I thought he was going to hit it off the backboard, then he went between his legs," said Banchero.

US head coach Steve Kerr said he was not worried about his players letting their energy levels drop after such a high-octane performance.

He likened his team to "the horse turning back to the barn".

"The horse starts picking up the pace when it senses it's near the barn, and that's what happening right now -- our guys are sensing this is the end of the journey," Kerr said.

Italy were appearing in their first World Cup quarter-final since 1998.

Power forward Nicolo Melli said there was "nothing this group could do more".

"We did everything we could do. This season we will work even harder and come back next year, and again and again and again," he said.

Serbian tribute

In the day's first quarter-final, Serbia used their stifling defence to beat Lithuania 87-68.

Bogdan Bogdanovic had 21 points for Serbia, who will play either Canada or Slovenia in the semi-finals on Friday.

He paid tribute to team-mate Borisa Simanic, who underwent surgery to remove a kidney after being hit by an opposition player's elbow earlier in the tournament.

Bogdanovic said Simanic addressed the squad before their quarter-final and gave them "amazing energy".

"He said 'Guys, I'm good, don't worry, let's win tonight'," said Bogdanovic, who finished as the game's top scorer.

"For him to think about us after everything that happened to him, he united us.

"That's an amazing guy and this is for him."

Bogdanovic put in an all-action performance as Serbia downed a previously unbeaten Lithuania team that went into the game fresh from their win over the US.

The Serbians took control of the game in the second quarter, outscoring Lithuania 25-13 to open up a lead that they never gave back.

Atlanta Hawks shooting guard Bogdanovic had 18 points in the first half alone and said his team had to give "300 percent" to win the game.

"It's really important for us as athletes first and then for our country," he said.

"You know how much we love the game of basketball, so we're happy that we're there. We are ready to compete more."

Lithuania's Tadas Sedekerskis, who led his team in scoring with 14 points, said the win over the US team did not take their minds off the prize.

"We came here to win a medal," he said.

"The game against the United States, as you can see now, means nothing, just history."

(For more sports news and updates, follow Ahram Online Sports on Twitter at @AO_Sports and on Facebook at AhramOnlineSports.)

Short link: