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US beat Italy to reach Basketball World Cup semis

MANILA – United States coach Steve Kerr likened his players to horses, as they rebounded from their first loss in the Basketball World Cup to book their place in the semi-finals with a resounding 100-63 win over Italy on Tuesday.

The Americans put their second-round defeat by Lithuania firmly in their rear-view mirror with a dynamic quarter-final performance to set up a Friday showdown with either Germany or Latvia – who meet on Wednesday.

Mikal Bridges led the US scoring with 24 points, and the Brooklyn Nets small forward also pulled down seven rebounds. Tyrese Haliburton was next with 18 points, followed by Austin Reaves on 12.

“We just want to set the tone from the jump and make them play our pace,” said Haliburton, who made six of eight three-pointers. “Just trying to play the right way for 40 minutes.”

Kerr, meanwhile, called the victory “our best defensive effort in the tournament to this point”.

He added: “We lost the last game, so you always want to respond to a loss with a competitive effort…

“There’s five more days, that’s how we look at it. We are the horse that senses it is near the barn, and it picks up pace when it is near.

“Our guys are sensing that it is now nearing the end of the journey (to the final) and the energy picked up tonight, the pace… they know what is ahead, they know what the goal is.

“We know that we must play our very best if we want to win the gold medal, and we did that tonight. I have no doubt that these guys will come out with the same force and the same energy the next game.”

The US stamped their authority from the first tip, and were 10 points ahead by the end of the first quarter.

Their lead grew to 22 by the end of a first half that saw crowd favourite Reaves provide a highlight with a massive rebound dunk.

They padded their lead to 41 points in the fourth quarter with a corner three by Milwaukee Bucks centre Bobby Portis Jr, and Italy could not find a way back.

The Italians came into the game with the same 4-1 win-loss record as the US but their shooting touch deserted them, making only 23 of 75 field-goal attempts.

Simone Fontecchio was Italy’s top scorer with 18 points, followed by Stefano Tonut on 11.

In the earlier quarter-final, Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic paid tribute to teammate Borisa Simanic – who underwent surgery to remove a kidney – after beating Lithuania to reach the last four.

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Serbia won 87-68 as the knockout phase got under way in Manila but had to play without Simanic, who was hospitalised after being hit by an opponent’s elbow.

Complications arising from the operation meant he had to have further surgery last Sunday, when one of his kidneys was removed.

Bogdanovic said Simanic addressed the squad before their quarter-final and gave them “amazing energy”.

“He said ‘Guys, I’m good, don’t worry, let’s win tonight’,” said Bogdanovic, who finished as the game’s top scorer with 21 points.

“For him to think about us after everything that happened to him, he united us. That’s an amazing guy and this is for him.” AFP

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