The FIBA World Cup belongs to Spain once again.

And Sergio Scariolo’s side lifted the Naismith Trophy for the second time in some style, defeating Argentina 95-75 in Beijing to conclude the tournament with a perfect 8-0 record.

Champions, just as they were in 2006, La Roja’s convergence of their so-called Golden Generation and a new breed proved mightily effective.

No more so than in the final when they came out throwing punches at the outset which inflicted painful bruising.

And other than during a brief fourth quarter spell, they were able to constrain Argentina with dogged defence and an efficient offense which was paced by 20 points and seven rebounds from Ricky Rubio, crowned afterward as the World Cup’s Most Valuable Player.

“We made history,” he said. “We were ready for that. We had a great tournament. We had to fight for this one. It’s just amazing how the whole tournament has been for us as a team. We weren’t the biggest or most talented team, but we were the team with the biggest heart.”

Scariolo witnessed his players engineer an early blow to the ribs that inflicted a wound that would prove fatal once the slugging had reached its end.

Marc Gasol buried a three that capped a rapid 7-0 run at the outset that grew into a 14-2 cushion in a frenetic opening.

Spain’s height was troublesome. A physical advantage that they could lean on to neutralise Luis Scola.

The Argentines required a Plan B. And it came from the perimeter with Nicolas Brussino awakening his team with back-to-back threes in an 8-0 retort midway through the opening period.

Defence was paramount with that burst from long-range atypical in a first half in which both finalists combined for 4-26 from beyond the arc.

Spain were held scoreless for exactly four minutes and missed nine shots in a row until Pau Ribas notched a three after their lead was scythed to 14-13.

It sparked a reaction. Rubio and Sergio Llull controlled the tempo and Argentina could not rest defensively.

Ten successive points including a pair threes from that old stager, Rudy Fernandez, and pushed the gap to 31-14 early in the second.

Work to do for the Argentines. Others required to step up with Scola and Facu Campazzo stymied offensively.

Nico Laprovíttola personally reeled off seven straight points in a 13-2 burst but it brought only a brief respite.

A 6-0 advance late in the period re-asserted Spain’s ascendancy and, with a 43-31 half-time advantage, they would never allow Argentina – trailing at the half for the first time in this tournament – to encroach within single figures again.

Victory would become a procession. The gate bolted firmly shut, Europe’s long-time torchbearers ruthless and efficient.

Argentina did not collect a single field goal until Gabriel Deck hit a three with 5:23 left in the third with his side trailing by as much as 55-33.

Prior to that, he and his colleagues had only taken five futile attempts since the break. Taken out of their rhythm, taken out of contention, Scola was held scoreless until he slotted four free throws in quick turn.

His contribution from the line was needed. Shooting a mere 30% from the field headed into the fourth, the Spanish defence was swarming inside and out with the brothers Hernangomez – Juancho and Willy – taking turns with Gasol to form a human Wall of China.

66-49 ahead entering the fourth, Argentina found a little rhythm but far too late. A 9-2 flurry was polished off by a dunk from Gabriel Deck to reduce the gap to 12. The Spanish had relaxed. No pressure, really. Amends secured for their disappointing last-eight exit on home soil at the last World Cup in 2014.

Scola, staring a repeat of the disappointment he felt in losing the 2002 final to Yugoslavia, finally collected a field goal having missed his first seven attempts

Deck rounded off a personal flourish to grab a game-high 24 points and the Real Madrid star downed a dunk off a Rubio turnover. No matter how much pressure they applied and energy they expended, that poor start haunted Argentina right to the end, out-rebounded 48-28 and out-smarted elsewhere.

A 10-2 Spanish run provided the definitive execution. Scola, shooting 1/10 and adding eight point and eight rebounds, sat down to an ovation from a crowd that included his old comrade Manu Ginobili.

What an extraordinary two weeks for the 39-year-old. Just one game short following an unexpected run for a team without a single NBA player. Their foes just too good, acknowledged Argentina head coach Sergio Hernandez.

“Their plan and execution were perfect,” he said. “They have great players with more experience. They were really better than us tonight. We were not tired, we wanted to win, we really felt great before the game, but this is basketball. If you play better than the other team, you’ll win, and Spain was the better team.

“Of course, we played a great tournament. We beat Serbia, France, Russia… a lot of top teams, and we played very very well. I will quickly forget the final.”

Yet from it, the honours, the plaudits and the prize were grasped by Spain. How they celebrated, with Fernandez – who nabbed 11 points and ten rebounds – gleefully cutting down the nets.

They reign supreme.

Spain. kings of the world once more.


Gasol, who had 14 points, seven rebounds and seven assists, lifted a world championship, three months after securing a NBA championship with the Toronto Raptors – the first person to do that double since Lamar Odom in 2010. Ditto Spain head coach and Raps assistant Sergio Scariolo. Gasol and Rudy Fernandez picked up second world titles. “What can I say? How does it sound to you?” said Gasol whose brother Pau missed the event due to injury.

“I feel very fortunate to be in this position, to play this game and help these guys. All of the things you sacrifice, it’s worth it … what a year, what an amazing year.”

Game Stats

Game Notes  The All Star Five for the World Cup: Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia) – the leading scorer in the tournament, Evan Fournier (France), Ricky Rubio (Spain), Luis Scola (Argentina), Marc Gasol (Spain). Rubio was voted the tournament’s MVP, averaging 15.9 points and 6.4 assists.

Les Bleus have Aus-Some finish

France rallied from 15 points down in the third quarter to stun Australia 67-59 in the playoff for third and fourth place.

Nando de Colo hit 14 of his team-high 19 points in the second half but it was back-up Andrew Albicy who keyed the comeback, draining a trio of three-pointers in the fourth, as the Boomers fluffed the chance to land their first ever global medal.

They had led 30-21 at halftime and their advantage peaked at 38-23 when Joe Ingles converted a three-point play.

However Evan Fournier catalysed a spurt that saw the deficit reduced and eventually the French moved 47-46 in front as de Colo hit five successive points. And the Aussies, perhaps mentally fatigued by their double OT loss to Spain in the semis, ran out of gas as their rivals repeated their bronze placing of 2014.

“It’s something very special and important because we did it after a difficult first and second half,” said France head coach Vincent Collet.

“Many other teams could have given up, but we stayed focused and never gave up. Suddenly when it was looking done for us, we started to play much better on offense and defence. At half-time, we said that we just had to find some execution on offense. We started to move the ball better in the second half and that’s why we won this game.”

Ingles led Australia with 17 points.

Game Stats

Photo: FIBA

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