BEIJING – Serbia celebrated its third successive World Cup win after a majestic performance by guard Bogdan Bogdanovic helped lead it to a 92-77 win over Italy, while Argentina overpowered Russia 69-61 on Wednesday.
Spain, the 2006 champion, made it three wins out of three with a labored 73-65 victory over Iran as did Poland after it beat Cote d’Ivoire 80-63.
Puerto Rico booked its berth in the second group stage after edging Tunisia 67-64 and it was joined by surprise package Venezuela, which brushed aside China 72-59 and knocked the host nation out of the 32-team tournament.
Sacramento Kings guard Bogdanovic scored 31 points and Denver Nuggets centre Nikola Jokic added 15 as Serbia pulled away in the third quarter after the Italians had slashed the deficit to 55-53.
Cool free throw shooting by captain Miroslav Raduljica, who nailed 12 of 13 shots from the foul line, allowed the Serbians to carve out a 92-67 lead in the closing stages while Bogdanovic was lethal from 3-point range.
Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari carried the Italian effort with 26 points and eight rebounds.
Serbia coach Aleksandar Djordjevic praised his team after its third successive win over Italy, having beaten the Italians twice in the build-up to the World Cup.
“It’s not easy to win three times against any team even if people say we’re much better than them,” Djordjevic told reporters.
“They have pride and quality, a great shooting team. We just struggled a bit to get into our flow but we never stopped defending.
“I’m not happy about some of our reactions to some physical fouls because that’s not what we want. It’s important our young players understand that.”
Argentina stifled out the Russians for three quarters with strong defense but looked in danger of throwing away a 13-point advantage in the final period.
With the South Americans leading 63-61 late in the game, its playmaker Facundo Campazzo scored twice in quick succession and then laid on an assist for Patricio Garino to seal the contest with a slam dunk.
Campazzo finished as the game’s top scorer with 21 points while 39-year-old forward Luis Scola and Marcos Delia chipped in with 13 each for Argentina.
Spain, which earlier secured its last-16 berth, trailed already eliminated Iran for much of the game before a late surge saw it turn the tide.
Tunisia was a whisker away from a springing a major upset and progressing to the second group stage but ran out of steam near the end of the match, as it failed to score in the last four minutes of a frantic contest against Puerto Rico.
In other news, Jayson Tatum could be sidelined two games with a sprained left ankle sustained in the United States’ overtime victory against Turkey.
Tatum was ruled out for five days after being examined Wednesday, one day after he turned the ankle working his way through traffic in the lane in the final minute of overtime. The United States survived with a 93-92 win.
Without Tatum, the United States was to play Japan on Thursday night in a pool play game in which nothing is on the line for either team. Japan has been eliminated from the next round, while the Americans clinched a spot.
Tatum had 11 points and 11 rebounds against Turkey. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated on Monday, when the United States is set for a second-round game in Shenzhen.