BARCELONA, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Raulzinho Neto had a game-high 21 points as Brazil avenged their defeat four years ago by Argentina and progressed to the quarter-finals of the basketball World Cup with an 85-65 victory on Sunday.
Argentina’s golden generation are coming to the end of the road and while they took the first quarter in Madrid, with a lead of eight points, it was downhill from there against Brazil who are fancied for a podium finish at the tournament in Spain.
Luis Scola led Argentina to victory over Brazil in the Last 16 of the 2010 World Championships in Turkey and they had come out on top the previous four times they met but with Brazil’s imposing frontcourt they were able to hurt the undersized Argentine squad.
“It was a very difficult game which we expected but it worked out well for us. We now have a lot of hope but also know there is a lot of work to do,” Neto told reporters after his starring role.
Pablo Prigioni notched up 18 points for Argentina who still had a 36-33 lead at the break but then Brazil improved their defensive intensity and a 15-3 run helped them take a 48-39 advantage.
Brazil stretched their lead with the first seven points of the fourth quarter and ran out comfortable winners in the end.
Argentina next face Serbia, who struggled in the group stages but against old rivals Greece they produced their best performance of the tournament after nailing nine-three pointers from 17 attempts.
Shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic enjoyed an effervescent afternoon with a game-high 21 points, as playmaker Milos Teodosic engineered a flowing effort in which center Miroslav Raduljica also thrived, racking up 16 points and six rebounds.
Greece had won all five group stage games while Serbia squeezed into the knockout stage with a 2-3 record but having endured strong criticism from the pundits, the Serbs hit top gear at crunch time and will meet Brazil in the quarter-finals.
“This is a big win for us and after some modest celebrations this evening, we will turn our attention to the quarter-final game,” Teodosic told reporters.
“We played as if there is no tomorrow and we don’t want to stop now, we will be ready for whoever comes our way in the last eight.”
An Emir Preldzic-inspired Turkey scraped past Australia 65-64 and now face Lithuania in the next round who survived a spirited comeback from New Zealand to run out 76-71 winners.
It was only in the fourth quarter that Turkey found their rhythm and they began to seriously cut back Australia’s lead.
With just over a minute left Turkey trailed 64-59 but then the Fenerbahce forward Preldzic notched up a three-pointer and with just five seconds left he buried another to close out the match.
“I hope I can do this on every birthday,” Preldzic, who was 27 on Saturday, told reporters.
“There is nothing better than delivering when the team needs you most.”
A 15-4 run in the first quarter demonstrated Lithuania’s dominance in their match and they continued to control the contest until the third quarter when New Zealand began to claw back the advantage.
New Zealand were true to their reputation as a side which doesn’t give in easily and they took the first nine points of the final round.
Lithuania dug in and Jonas Valanciunas, who finished with 22 points and 13 rebounds, led them to victory.
Tournament favorites the U.S. and Spain remain on course to reach the final after they had comfortable victories over Mexico and Senegal on Saturday. The U.S. now meet Slovenia in the quarter-finals while Spain take on France.
(Fixes Serbia’s next opponent)
Additional reporting by Zoran Milosavljevic. Editing by Ian Ransom