Defending champions Spain broke open a close game in the fourth quarter and continued their mastery over Greece by winning their Eight-Final showdown at the FIBA World Championship on Saturday.
Sergio Scariolo’s team, beaten twice in Group D, got a game-high 22 points from Juan Carlos Navarro but more importantly an excellent game from its bench and won 80-72 at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Fran Vazquez and Felipe Reyes combined for 12 points and 17 rebounds off the bench.
Sergio Llull was also immense. He didn’t start but had nine points in 15 minutes.
The triumph has set up a Quarter-Final with Serbia, the team they hammered in last year’s EuroBasket Final in Poland.
With 5:49 left to play and Greece trailing 58-57, Rudy Fernandez scored five points in a 9-0 Spanish run that put them in front to stay.
A Vassilis Spanoulis three-ball cut the deficit to 67-60 with less than two minutes to play but Navarro replied with a three at the other end.
Greece kept the pressure on and cut the deficit to four but got no closer with the Spaniards securing victory from the free-throw line.
Fernandez scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half while Navarro had a game-high 22 points.
Greece have now lost to Spain in the last four major FIBA tournaments.
Spain beat them in the Final of the World Championship in 2006 and in the Semi-Finals of EuroBasket 2007. They overcame Greece in the Preliminary at the Olympics in 2008 and again defeated them last year in the Semi-Finals in Poland.
Dimitris Diamantidis, whose shot-blocking and steals helped keep the Greeks in the game, and Nikos Zisis each had 16 points in defeat.
Spain’s Rudy Fernandez: “It’s never easy to play against Greece. They make you work hard for the victory. We knew we needed to step up our game if we wanted to continue in the tournament and I think we did that today. We stepped up our defense, showed concentration from start to finish and we got the job done. I think we have taken a step forward with respect to our previous performances and now we have to start thinking about Serbia.
Greece’s Dimitris Diamantidis: “It’s a big disappointment for us. We gave 100% and it was a close game until the final minutes. In the third quarter we were up by six points but immediately we went down. After we started in the zone, we tried to do our best but it wasn’t enough. We know Spain is a very good team. We wish them the very best of luck but for us, it’s finished.”
Courtesy of FIBA