FOSHAN (AFP) – Red-hot Serbia showed they – not reigning two-time champions the United States – are the team to beat at the Basketball World Cup with a 92-77 victory over Italy on Wednesday to top their group.
Gregg Popovich’s Team USA were pushed to the limit on Tuesday before finally swatting aside 17th-ranked Turkey in overtime to labour into the second round in China.
Just 24 hours later Serbia showed the Americans how to do it against the Italians, ranked 13th, in a battle for supremacy in Group D with both teams having already stormed through to the next stage.
In the next round Italy and Serbia will be in a group with Spain and Puerto Rico.
Serbia were ahead at half-time against Italy in Foshan with the Sacramento Kings pair of Nemanja Bjelica and Bogdan Bogdanovic roaring to the fore.
Guard Bogdanovic totted up a game-leading 31 points and five steals. Bjelica, a forward, had nine assists.
The United States are the current Olympic and world champions but they look fallible in China with Popovich missing the Americans’ biggest names, forcing him to select a young, experimental team.
In contrast, Serbia – losers to the US in the last Olympic and world finals – are a settled side who know their jobs and what coach Sasha Djordjevic expects of them.
Serbia, the tallest team at the World Cup, racked up more than 100 points in handsome victories over outclassed Angola and the Philippines in their opening two matches.
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