Argentina ousts Serbia, moves into World Cup semifinals

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Argentina's Luis Scola tries to get past Serbian defenders during a quarterfinal match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Dongguan in southern China's Guangdong province on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
Argentina’s Luis Scola tries to get past Serbian defenders during a quarterfinal match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Dongguan in southern China’s Guangdong province on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

Dongguan, China (AP) — The last time Luis Scola went to the semifinals of the World Cup, he was 26 and waiting to bring his long, flowing dark hair to the NBA for the first time.

He’s 39 now. A decade-long career in the NBA has come and gone. The hair is closely cropped now, with plenty of gray mixed in there.

And he’s back in FIBA’s Final Four.

Scola scored 20 points, Facundo Campazzo finished with 18 points and 12 assists and Argentina stunned Serbia 97-87 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday night. Argentina (6-0) plays next in Friday’s semifinals at Beijing, against the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal in Dongguan between the U.S. (5-0) and France (4-1).

“It means a lot,” Scola said.

Serbia was considered the pre-tournament favorite by many, and came in expecting to win gold after losing title games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. Argentina had other plans and Scola made a very loud statement after the game — this outcome, he insisted, was no fluke.

“It just bothers me that people keep talking about miracle, keep talking about surprise, keep talking about nobody believing,” Scola said. “I’ll tell you, there were 22 people that believed for the last two months that we were going to be here. That’s all we need, just 22. We’ve got them and this is far from a miracle.”

Patricio Garino added 15 for Argentina.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 21 points for Serbia (4-2), which got 18 points from Nemanja Bjelica and a 16-point, 10-rebound effort from All-NBA center Nikola Jokic. Vasilije Micic played 18 minutes for Serbia, after the death of his mother earlier this week.

“We put a lot of work in this summer,” Bjelica said. “It’s hard. But it’s basketball. There are more important things.”

Argentina led most of the way, lost the lead briefly on the first possession of the fourth quarter when Marko Guduric made a 3-pointer for Serbia — which the winners answered with a 19-6 run over the next 6 minutes.

Bogdanovic’s 3-pointer with 1:20 left got Serbia within 91-85. But Campazzo’s jumper on the next possession pushed the lead back to eight, and that’s about when the blue-and-white-clad Argentine fans in the stands knew it was time to celebrate.

“Campazzo absolutely dominated the game,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said of Argentina’s 5-foot-10 point guard, who dazzled throughout. “Absolutely dominated the game. This is his victory.”

Scola said it was a total team effort.

“I think we played a very good basketball game,” Scola said. “We’re a good team. We’ve played a great tournament and we deserved to win.”

TIP-INS

Serbia: Boban Marjanovic had a short and eventful second-quarter stint — picking up three fouls, one of them an unsportsmanlike, and committing a turnover in just over 2 minutes. … Serbia grabbed 15 of the game’s first 17 rebounds and finished with a 42-29 edge. … It’s unclear if Micic will remain with the team for the consolation-round game.

Argentina: By the midway mark of the first quarter, the Argentines had two fouls and another with three — Tayavek Gallizzi, who was whistled three times in 82 seconds after he came in because starter Marcos Delia was in foul trouble. … The Olympic berth Argentina claimed by being one of the top two World Cup finishers from the Americas region — the U.S. is the other — is its fifth straight and eighth overall.

SCOUTING

The U.S. sent its scouting group — Jeff Van Gundy, Lloyd Pierce and Ime Udoka among them — to see the Argentina-Serbia game in person. U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said he’s watching plenty of games on off days, but is letting the group led by Van Gundy handle the bulk of the scouting details.

BONUS PRIZE

Argentina gets more than a trip to the semifinals — it gets an extra day off. After playing every other day so far in the tournament, Argentina will have two full rest days before seeing either the U.S. or France on Friday.

UP NEXT

Serbia: Faces U.S.-France loser on Thursday at Dongguan in the consolation round.

Argentina: Faces U.S.-France winner on Friday at Beijing in the semifinals.