Spain moved a step closer to getting its first-ever medal at the World Basketball Championship, downing Lithuania 89-67 to reach the semi-finals yesterday.
Pau Gasol, a 2.13m center with the US National Basketball Association Memphis Grizzlies, hit a game-high 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds for Spain, which will face either Olympic champion Argentina or Turkey on Friday.
"I think we made the most important game in offense, defense and rebounding," Spain's coach Pepu Hernandez said after the game.
"[In the semi-finals], we'll do it the right way. We'll try to play with our faith and our conviction the same way we did," he said.
Juan Carlos Navarro, who finished with 22 points, opened the scoring with a 3-pointer from the right side and hit another 3-pointer and a two-pointer as Spain led Lithuania 28-11 in the first quarter.
Alex Mumbru's shot pushed Spain ahead to 32-11 early in the second period, topping off a 15-0 run.
Ksystof Lavrinovic sparked Lithuania's comeback with two open shots and a two-pointer that helped reduce the gap to 11 points.
But Gasol went to the basket with a dunk, a lay-in and four free throws before tapping in a rebound as Spain finished the first half 47-30.
Gasol scored on a pass from Navarro on a fast break starting with a spectacular steal by point guard Juan Carlos Calderon early in the third period.
A series of five good shots by Denver Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza failed to help Lithuania much as the quarter ended at 65-42 and Spain cleared the bench in the final minutes.
"We just kept running and being aggressive," Gasol said.
"We have to be really happy right now," he said.
Spain beat Argentina in two recent warm-up games and has gone unbeaten after seven games in the world championships.
"We made a lot of childish mistakes," Kleiza said.
"As young as we are, we still had chances to win this game, but we gave them away," he said.
Lithuania, the 2003 European champion, committed 28 turnovers to Spain's 11.
"In a game of such importance, you cannot make 28 turnovers and expect that they will let you go away with it," Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika said.
"We did not prepare ourselves mentally," he said.
Argentina 83, Turkey 58
Reigning Olympic champion Argentina, led by 21 points from Andres Nocioni, advanced to the semi-finals of the World Basketball Championship with a dominating 83-58 victory over outclassed Turkey yesterday.
Argentina will meet Spain on Friday in a matchup of unbeaten teams for a berth in Sunday's title game.
Luis Scola, back after suffering two broken teeth in a playoff win and NBA Chicago Bulls standout Nocioni each scored five points in a 12-2 run at the end of the first quarter to give Argentina a 25-16 lead.
Carlos Delfino of the NBA Detroit Pistons followed with nine points in a 15-3 Argentine second-quarter spurt that lifted the South Americans to a lead of 43-23 at half-time. Turkey came no closer in the second half.
Delfino finished with 14 points while Scola had 13. Cenk Akyol led Turkey with 11.
Australia's Bob Elphinston, who served as general manager of sport for the 2000 Sydney Olympic organizing committee, was elected president of basketball world governing body FIBA yesterday.
The 64-year-old former FIBA vice president, who will serve until 2010, is only the third Aussie to head an global Olympic sports federation, following after compatriots at world swimming's FINA and the International Tennis Federation.