BEIJING (Reuters) – Serbia celebrated their third successive basketball World Cup win after a majestic performance by guard Bogdan Bogdanovic helped them to a 92-77 win over Italy while Argentina overpowered Russia 69-61 on Wednesday.
Spain, the 2006 champions, made it three wins out of three with a labored 73-65 win over Iran as did Poland after they beat Ivory Coast 80-63.
Puerto Rico booked their berth in the second group stage after edging Tunisia 67-64 and they were joined by surprise package Venezuela, who 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 center 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 an 92-67 lead in the closing stages while Bogdanovic was lethal from three-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 their third successive win over Italy, having beaten them 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 score 63-61 to the South American side late in the game, their 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, who earlier secured their last-16 berth, trailed already eliminated Iran for much of the game before a late surge saw them turn the tide.
Tunisia were whisker away from a springing a major upset and progressing to the second group stage but ran out of steam in the home straight, as they failed to score in the last four minutes of a frantic contest against Puerto Rico.
Thursday’s standout fixture features an intriguing clash between Lithuania and Australia, who both brushed aside Canada and eliminated them in the preliminary stage of the tournament.
Holders United States should have a straightforward task against Japan after Tuesday’s dramatic 93-92 overtime win over Turkey while Greece face a dogfight against New Zealand for a last-16 berth.