Fournier and Gobert do the star turn; Australia cruises into the last four

France caused the biggest shock of the basketball World Cup after beating defending champion United States 89-79 to reach the semifinals of the 32-nation tournament here on Wednesday.

France will meet Argentina on Friday for a berth in Sunday's final while the 2006 champion Spain takes on Australia, which outplayed the Czech Republic 82-70 in the day's other quarterfinal.

USA, the favourite to win its third successive and sixth overall World title, failed to reach the medal rounds for the first time since the 2002 edition in Indianapolis.

Having ground out a barely-deserved 93-92 overtime win over Turkey in the preliminary group stage, there was to be no escape for USA against an athletic French side which overpowered it in every department.

An aggressive French defence forced a flurry of first-half turnovers and having engineered a 45-39 halftime lead, it surged to an 51-41 early in the third quarter thanks to inspired performances from Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert. As the duo began to tire, Team USA hit back thanks to a one-man show from Donovan Mitchell, who netted 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter to give the 2014 champion a 66-63 lead ahead of the final 10 minutes.

But Mitchell stayed scoreless in the fourth quarter while his Utah Jazz team mate Gobert and Orlando Magic guard Fournier hit top gear.

Trailing 72-65, France went on a 17-4 run and some cool free-throw shooting in the last 90 seconds of the clash it a memorable win as Gobert finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds while Fournier netted 22 points.

The towering Gobert also produced two crucial blocks in the final minute as the Americans lost their momentum and threw away several key possessions.

Continue Reading

on The Hindu

Featured