Stunned Serbia buckled under World Cup expectations, says coach
DONGGUAN, China – Serbia's coach said that his strongly fancied team collapsed under the weight of expectation as they were stunned by Argentina in the FIBA World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday, September 10.
The South Americans' grand old man Luis Scola knocked down a series of key buckets in a fourth-quarter surge to help crush Serbia, 97-87, in the Chinese city of Dongguan.
Argentina is now undefeated in 6 games and headed for a Friday semifinal against the winner between reigning two-time champions the United States and France.
In Tuesday's other quarterfinal, Spain's Ricky Rubio became the all-time leader for World Cup assists in a 90-78 win over surprise package Poland in Shanghai.
With Gregg Popovich's US squad unbeaten but still failing to convince, Serbia had emerged as favorites – but their coach Sasha Djordjevic said his players had buckled.
"It was euphoria in our country – everybody followed us, everybody gave us a hand, everybody was eager to see us play in this tournament," he said.
"We became favorites just like that, everybody was writing – not only in our papers but everywhere around the world – that we are the team, we are the ones, we will win," he added.
"Sometimes that does not help."
'We deserve to be here'
For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the NBA's Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points, while Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic added 16.
But it was Scola, 39 years old and the last remaining member of Argentina's "Golden Generation" that won the Olympics in 2004, who remains on course for another milestone.
The World Cup is the only major international trophy that he has yet to win. He finished with a team-high 20 points and Argentina was the more fluid team throughout the contest.
Trailing most of the game, Serbia threatened to take control when they grabbed a 70-68 fourth-quarter lead on a three-pointer by the Memphis Grizzlies' Marko Guduric.
That's when Scola stepped up, scoring 8 rapid-fire points in a 21-6 Argentina run that dropped the curtain on Serbia's World Cup.
"It just bothers me that people keep talking about a miracle, keep talking about a surprise, keep talking about nobody believes it," said the veteran.
"This is far from a miracle – we are a good basketball team, we played great basketball all the way along, we deserve to be here." – Rappler.com