Basketball

France knock holders United States out of World Cup medal rounds

France caused the biggest shock of the basketball World Cup in China after beating holders the United States 89-79 to reach the semi-finals of the 32-nation tournament yesterday.

France will meet Argentina tomorrow for a berth in Sunday's final, while 2006 champions Spain take on Australia, who defeated the Czech Republic 82-70 yesterday.

The US, favourites to win their third successive and sixth overall world title, dropped into the fifth-eighth place play-offs after they failed to reach the medal rounds for the first time since the 2002 tournament.

Having ground out a barely deserved 93-92 overtime win over Turkey in the preliminary group stage, there was to be no escape for the US this time against an athletic French side who overpowered them in every department.

An aggressive French defence forced a flurry of first-half turnovers and, having engineered a 45-39 half-time lead, they surged 51-41 early in the third quarter, thanks to inspired performances from Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert.

As the duo began to tire, the US hit back thanks to a one-man show from Donovan Mitchell, who netted 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter to give the 2014 champions a 66-63 lead ahead of the final 10 minutes.

But Mitchell stayed scoreless in the fourth quarter, while his Utah Jazz teammate Gobert and Orlando Magic guard Fournier hit top gear.

Trailing 72-65, France went on a 17-4 run and cool free-throw shooting in the last 90 seconds of the clash gave them a memorable win, as Gobert finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Fournier netted 22 points.

QUALIFIED FOR OLYMPICS

The only positive the US will take from the tournament is that they have qualified for next year's Olympics in Tokyo alongside Australia, Argentina, Iran and Nigeria.

The tournament's top-two European nations will also advance to the 2020 Games, joining hosts Japan who gained an automatic berth.  - REUTERS

Basketball