Stunned Serbia buckled under World Cup expectations: coach

Argentina's Gabriel Deck tries to shoot past Serbia's Nemanja Bjelica at left and Serbia's Nikola Jokic during a quarterfinal match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019
Updated 10 September 2019
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Stunned Serbia buckled under World Cup expectations: coach

  • For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points
  • Argentina are now undefeated in six games

DONGGUAN, China, Sept 10, 2019 Agence France Presse: Serbia’s coach said that his strongly fancied team collapsed under the weight of expectation as they were stunned by Argentina in the Basketball World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
The South Americans’ grand old man Luis Scola knocked down a series of key buckets in a fourth-quarter surge to help crush Serbia 97-87 in the Chinese city of Dongguan.
Argentina are now undefeated in six games and headed for a Friday semifinal against reigning two-time champions the United States or France.
In Tuesday’s other quarter-final, Spain’s Ricky Rubio became the all-time leader for World Cup assists in a 90-78 win over surprise package Poland in Shanghai.
With Gregg Popovich’s US squad unbeaten but still failing to convince, Serbia had emerged as favorites — but their coach Sasha Djordjevic said his players had buckled.
“It was euphoria in our country — everybody followed us, everybody gave us a hand, everybody was eager to see us play in this tournament,” he said.
“We became favorites just like that, everybody was writing — not only in our papers but everywhere around the world — that we are the team, we are the ones, we will win,” he added.
“Sometimes that does not help.”
For the Serbs, shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings led all scorers with 21 points, while Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic added 16.
But it was Scola, 39 years old and the last remaining member of Argentina’s “Golden Generation” that won the Olympics in 2004, who remains on course for another milestone.
The World Cup is the only major international trophy that he has yet to win. He finished with a team-high 20 points and Argentina were the more fluid throughout the contest.
Trailing most of the game, Serbia threatened to take control when they grabbed a 70-68 fourth-quarter lead on a three-pointer by the Memphis Grizzlies’ Marko Guduric.
That’s when Scola stepped up, scoring eight rapid-fire points in a 21-6 Argentina run that dropped the curtain on Serbia’s World Cup.
“It just bothers me that people keep talking about a miracle, keep talking about a surprise, keep talking about nobody believes it,” said the veteran.
“This is far from a miracle — we are a good basketball team, we played great basketball all the way along, we deserve to be here.”
Spain’s coach Sergio Scariolo hailed Rubio after what he called a “tough war” with Poland.
Phoenix Suns’ Rubio made an electric start for Olympic bronze medallists Spain, who will play Australia or the Czech Republic in Friday’s semis.
He had nine points in the first half and grabbed a record 107th career World Cup assist, surpassing Pablo Prigioni of Argentina.
Rubio finished the game with 19 points, nine assists and five rebounds against a Poland side who were back in the World Cup after a 52-year absence.
“Tonight is a really great night to congratulate Ricky as the best passer in the history of the World Cup,” said Scariolo.
“It’s huge and I really feel proud of him. This is his night.”
Juan Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets surged to 14 points before the break as Spain, ranked second in the world behind the United States, threatened to run riot.


Wales assistant rugby coach sent home over betting case

Updated 17 September 2019
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Wales assistant rugby coach sent home over betting case

  • Rob Howley, who has been part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team since 2008, has left the squad’s base in Japan
  • Howley enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning 59 caps for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions

TOKYO: Wales assistant coach Rob Howley has been sent home from the Rugby World Cup in Japan over a potential breach of betting rules.
The former Wales captain, who has been part of Warren Gatland’s coaching team since 2008, has left the squad’s base in Japan.
The Welsh Rugby Union says “Howley has returned to Wales to assist with an investigation in relation to a potential breach of World Rugby regulation 6, specifically betting on rugby union. The decision was taken to act immediately in light of recent information passed to the WRU.”
Wales’ opening World Cup game is against Georgia on Monday.
The WRU says Howley has “co-operated fully with our initial discussions” but adds that “if required, an independent panel will be appointed to hear the case.”
Howley had been due to leave his Wales coaching role after the World Cup, along with Gatland and fellow assistants Shaun Edwards and Robin McBryde.
Howley enjoyed a glittering playing career, winning 59 caps for Wales and captaining his country on 22 occasions, while also helping Wasps to be crowned European champions in 2004.
He played for the British and Irish Lions in 1997 and 2001, and was part of the Lions coaching staff on their last three tours.