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‘Underdog’ Latvia stun champions Spain as Basketball World Cup second round begins

JAKARTA – Latvia had a point to prove in stunning champions Spain as the Basketball World Cup second round got under way on Friday, while the United States, Lithuania, Germany and Slovenia booked their quarter-final spots.

Italy, Brazil and Puerto Rico also shook things up with upset wins over previously unbeaten Serbia, Canada and the Dominican Republic respectively.

Tournament debutants Latvia had already pulled off an almighty shock when they beat Tokyo Olympics silver medallists France in the group stage.

They added world and European champions Spain to their giant-killing conquests on Friday after scrapping to a 74-69 win in Jakarta.

Latvia coach Luca Banchi said his team arrived at the tournament in the Philippines, Indonesia and Japan desperate to “prove that we belong at this level”.

“Being an underdog in such a tough group, and suffering so many injuries before arriving and during the competition, for sure put us in a position where we don’t have anything to lose,” he said.

“We arrive here with a real desire to prove our style, whether it is good or bad. Without (others giving us) any credit, it is an extra strength.”

The Latvians looked to be heading for defeat when Spain took a 58-47 lead into the fourth quarter but they outscored the previously unbeaten title holders 27-11 in the final period.

Power forward Davis Bertans led the way with 16 points but he said the team’s performance was all that counted. “I know that every single guy gives 100 per cent and more, every time they step out on the court,” he added.

Elsewhere in Group L, Brazil beat Canada 69-65 to leave all four teams on three wins going into the final day’s play.

Slovenia advanced to the quarter-finals with a 91-80 win over Australia that eliminated the Boomers from title contention.

Luka Doncic got into foul trouble but still scored 19 points to give his team a measure of revenge after losing to Australia in the Tokyo Olympics third-place play-off two years ago.

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“It was a very hard game,” said the Dallas Mavericks superstar.

“Australia had to win no matter what and we went into the game like we had to win no matter what. I’m really proud of how we played today.”

Germany also advanced to the last eight from Group K along with Slovenia with a 100-73 win over Georgia.

The United States survived their first real scare of the tournament, beating Montenegro 85-73 in Manila.

Star shooting guard Anthony Edwards went scoreless in the first half, as the Balkans team led by Chicago Bulls centre Nikola Vucevic gave the US their toughest test yet.

The Americans eventually stamped their authority – with Edwards scoring 17 points – and coach Steve Kerr said “it wasn’t pretty but we just kept competing”.

Lithuania beat Greece 92-67 later to send both themselves and the US through to the quarter-finals from Group J.

In Group I, Puerto Rico beat the Dominican Republic 102-97, and Italy beat Serbia 78-76. All four teams now have three wins going into the final games of the second round. AFP

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