BEIJING (Reuters) - Heavyweights Serbia and Spain advanced to the basketball World Cup quarter-finals with a match to spare and were joined by Poland and Argentina after all four sides won their opening second group stage matches on Friday.
Serbia mauled Puerto Rico 90-47 and Spain overpowered Italy 67-60 in Group J, while Poland beat Russia 79-74 and Argentina breezed past Venezuela 87-67 as the quartet stretched their perfect records to four successive wins.
Saturday’s standout fixtures feature holders United States taking on Greece while France clash with Lithuania.
Having brushed aside their preliminary pool opponents, Serbia hit the ground running again as their deep roster, including five NBA players, dominated the Puerto Ricans in every department.
The Serbians collected 48 rebounds to Puerto Rico’s 26 and dished out 30 team assists while their rivals only managed 11 against an ironclad defence.
Serbia’s top scorer in the competition Bogdan Bogdanovic netted a mere five points but his Sacramento Kings team mate Nemanja Bjelica nailed 18, Boban Marjanovic added 16 and Nikola Jokic chipped in with 14 and 10 rebounds.
“We took Puerto Rico seriously and played at full throttle from start to finish,” Marjanovic told Serbian television.
“We still have room to improve. It will be tough against Spain (in the next game) as always but we are looking forward to the challenge.”
Italy made a bright start as they raced into a 15-5 lead but then started to struggle in offence while Real Madrid guard Sergio Llull came off the bench to reinvigorate the Spaniards.
The lead changed hands time and again in a rollercoaster contest before Spain engineered a decisive 10-0 run late in the game which turned a four-point deficit into a 62-56 lead.
Juancho Hernangomez led Spain with 16 points, Ricky Rubio added 15 and Llull finished with 11 to compensate a poor performance by Toronto Raptors centre Marc Gasol, who scored two points after hitting just one of six shots.
Poland trailed Russia for three quarters of a nail-biting tussle and turned the tide in the final 10 minutes as Adam Wazcynski led their effort with 18 points.
Mateuzs Ponitka added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Poles as the duo cancelled out a fine individual performance by Russia’s playmaker Mikhail Kulagin, the game’s top scorer with 21 points.
Argentina dictated the pace against Venezuela with their forward Gabriel Deck providing the momentum with 25 points.
Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Editing by Toby Davis