Sat, Sep 19, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Spain dominate France, Serbia knock out Russia

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP:Pau Gasol led six-time runners-up Spain with 28 points as they beat France, while Serbia’s smothering defense helped oust Russia

AP , KATOWICE, POLAND

Spain’s Pau Gasol jumps to sink the ball during their European basketball championship game against France in Katowice, Poland, on Thursday.

PHOTO: AFP

World champion Spain pounded previously unbeaten France 86-66 and Serbia eliminated defending champion Russia 79-68 in the European basketball championship quarter-finals on Thursday.

Spain, looking for its first European title after finishing runners-up six times, including to Russia two years ago, will play either Greece or Turkey in the semi-finals today. Serbia will face either Slovenia or Croatia.

Playing at the level that won it the world title in 2006, Spain dominated France, running up a 23-12 lead and extending the gap from there with hot shooting and a smothering defense.

“That was a tough game for us,” France forward Boris Diaw said. “They just played better than us from the first to the last minute. We were behind them pretty much the whole game, and trying to come back on a great team like Spain is tough.”

Pau Gasol led Spain with 28 points and nine rebounds, dominating in the paint on both ends by muscling down low for baskets on the offensive end, and blocking three shots and altering more on the defensive side.

And that was despite France throwing center Ronny Turiaf, forward Boris Diaw and Florent Pietrus at him.

“It’s no surprise — he’s one of the best players in the world,” Diaw said. “Obviously it’s difficult to play against him. You have to double-team him and because they have great players around, you can’t help because they have [Rudy] Fernandez and [Juan Carlos] Navarro, who are great shooters.”

Spain coach Sergio Scariolo praised his team’s defensive effort, singling out Ricard Rubio and Raul Lopez for limiting France point guard Tony Parker to just 6 points.

“They did a fantastic job on Tony,” Scariolo said. “They were supported by the team, of course, but the individual effort was unbelievable.”

Serbia’s smothering defense helped to oust Russia.

Serbia turned up the defensive pressure in the second quarter to grab control. A 17-0 run lifted Serbia 38-24 ahead and Russia didn’t recover.

“We deserved this victory,” Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said. “It was a very, very tough game, good game, and the key to the game was the bench players ... who played I think in the second quarter great defense.”

Serbia held Russia without a field goal for seven minutes, a span during which it committed five turnovers and missed three lay-ups.

“They really defended hard, and we stopped playing and we gave into that, and it took us another quarter to recover,” Russia coach David Blatt said.

“We never really got back in the game,” he said.

Russia, which has only three players from the team that upset Spain in the 2007 final, looked sluggish all night against a well-organized Serbia and never cut the lead to under 10 points.

“They have the kind of lineup that is very problematic for us. They have a very good mix of inside-outside players,” Blatt said. “Unless you’re in the game with them the whole way, you’re going to have trouble winning. And we certainly were not in the game the whole game.”

Guard Uros Tripkovic scored 18 points to lead Serbia, while center Kosta Perovic added 13 points and five rebounds.

Vitalii Fridzon led Russia with 15 points.

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