Argentina cruises in romp of Lebanon

by Jack Gallagher

SENDAI — Reserve forward Walter Hermann scored 23 points as Argentina grabbed the early lead in Group A on Sunday afternoon, scoring an easy 107-72 victory over Lebanon to improve to 2-0 in the first round of the FIBA World Championship.

NBA star Manu Ginobili, who keyed Argentina’s victory over France on Saturday, played only 15 minutes for Argentina in the win, scoring seven points and handing out five assists. Ginobili displayed excellent vision and leadership while he was on the court, delivering several pinpoint passes to teammates who converted them into easy baskets.

Hermann, who plays for Malaga in the Spanish League, shot six-for-eight from 3-point range.

Center/forward Luis Scola chipped in with 18 points and seven rebounds for the South Americans.

The defending Olympic champion just had too much talent for scrappy Lebanon, which won its opening game against Venezuela on Saturday. Coach Sergio Hernandez was very pleased with the decisive result over the team from the Middle East.

“I am really happy, because last night we had a special victory against France — a big, European team. Tonight we came out and played well for 40 minutes,” he said.

Argentina, which finished second at the 2002 World Championship in Indianapolis, took control of the contest early, outscoring Lebanon 29-9 in the opening quarter.

The advantage swelled to 25 points midway through the second quarter, as Argentina showed off superior ball movement and teamwork, despite the fact that Ginobili was on the bench for most of the period.

Argentina took a 50-32 lead into halftime.

It blew the contest wide open in third quarter as it moved out to 35-point lead with just less than three minutes left, then boosted the margin to 40, playing entirely with substitutes, with 5:43 left in the fourth quarter on a 3-pointer by Hermann.

Reserve swingman Carlos Delfino drained a nifty 3-pointer for Argentina just inside the two-minute mark in the fourth quarter to put his team over the 100-point plateau.

Guard Rony Fahed came off the bench to score 18 points for Lebanon.

Defending world champion Serbia and Montenegro was dealt its second straight defeat in the final game of the day, falling 65-61 to France in a bruising but entertaining encounter.

Swingman Boris Diaw, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, scored a team-high 20 points, had eight rebounds, and made four big free throws in the final 6.4 seconds to help seal the game for France.

Diaw came through in the clutch for his country on this night, after enduring an 0-11 night at the free-throw line in the European Championships against Slovenia last year.

The game was a see-saw affair that had 11 lead changes and was tied 12 times, including at the half (30-30). France prevailed despite shooting just 30 percent (21-60) from the field.

Igor Rakocevic, who played for the Minnesota Timberwolves during the 2002-03 season, paced Serbia and Montenegro with 22 points. Center Darko Milicic, who plays for the Orlando Magic, had 12 points and game-high nine rebounds in the loss, putting for a much more spirited effort than he had in Saturday’s loss to Argentina.

In the early game, 38-year-old Victor Diaz scored a game-high 24 points to lead Venezuela past Nigeria 84-77. The South Americans bounced back from Saturday’s loss to Lebanon to even their record at 1-1.

Diaz, a 198-cm small forward, is eight years older than his closest teammate, but he put on a fine performance by connecting for six 3-pointers in the victory.

Venezuela nearly squandered a 21-point lead, seeing Nigeria cut the margin to just five points at 73-68 with a 10-point run with 3:54 left, before responding to notch the win.

Guard Oscar Torres and reserve center Miguel Marriaga added 14 points apiece for Venezuela, which does not have a single NBA player on its roster.

Ime Udoka, who starred for Nigeria in Saturday’s surprising triumph over Serbia and Montenegro, was high man for the Africans with 23 points.