DONGGUAN, China : France blew the Basketball World Cup wide open Wednesday by handing the US their first loss in the competition in 13 years in their quarterfinal clash, powered by a double-double from big man Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz. The historic 89-79 win for France eliminates the Americans early from the competition in China, dashing their hopes of a third straight title.
The prospect of an American exit had looked increasingly possible after the US sent a squad of second-tier stars and the loss is likely to prompt soul-searching in US basketball.
Gobert, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had three blocks, including a key rejection down the stretch to help France seal the victory in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.
The 7-foot-1 center called the win “unbelievable.”
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a while. I was thinking we might never get the opportunity (to beat the USA) again and I told that to the guys,” Gobert said.
“It doesn’t mean much if you don’t win the gold, but it will go down as one of the biggest wins of my career and one of the biggest wins for French basketball for sure.”
In a hint of the sniping that may result in the US over the debacle, shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who led the Americans with 29 points, hit back at critics of the team.
“You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have but why don’t you all focus on who we do have?” he told reporters.
“We have 12 guys that want to compete for America, just like every other country. It s**ks that some of our country people don’t feel that way about us, but we don’t care. We wanted to compete and we did.”
France will play Argentina on Friday, who made it to the final four by defeating Serbia.
The USA loss sets up an enticing consolation match with Serbia on Thursday. Packed with NBA players, the two were tournament favorites and will be trying to salvage pride.
In Shanghai, San Antonio Spurs’ Patty Mills was in sparkling form once more for Australia as they reached the semifinals for the first time on Wednesday.
The Boomers, who had never gone beyond the quarterfinals in 11 previous appearances, defeated tournament debutants the Czech Republic 82-70 and will meet Spain on Friday.
This was undefeated Australia’s sixth win in a row in China and in doing so they avoided becoming the latest surprise casualty at this unpredictable World Cup.