There will be a new FIBA World Cup champion for the first-time in 9 years.
France ended the United States of America’s firm grip of FIBA World Cup championships with a huge 89-79 win over the two-time defending champions and five-time winners to advance to the semi-finals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The USA’s last defeat came in the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup in Japan — dropping a 101-95 decision to Greece to claim third-place. The USA was attempting to become the first country to win the title three editions in a row dating back to 2010. Only Brazil and former European powerhouse Yugoslavia have double-dipped at the World Cup.
The victory is Les Blues first in four tries over the USA at a World Cup since the tournament began in 1950. France also earned a Silver medal at the 2000 Olympic games — narrowly losing to the USA, 85-75 — in their first championship game since the second Olympics games — also losing to the USA 65-21 at the 1948 Olympic games in London, England.
Both teams were unable to separate themselves in the much anticipated quarter-final match-up with the first-quarter finishing all knotted-up at 18-18.
France used a 7-0 run in the middle of the second-quarter to take a 36-29 lead with 3:13 to play in the opening half. Les Blues continued to make shots — keeping the USA at bay with 45-39 advantage at the break.
France stretched the lead to double-digits at 53-43 midway through the middle frame but Utah Jazz rising star Donovan Mitchell kept the USA within striking distance by scoring 14 of the defending champions 27 third-quarter points. Team USA limited France to just 18 points in 10 minutes retaking a slim 66-63 advantage.
The Americans continued to knock-down shots, pulling ahead 72-65 on a made field-goal from Kemba Walker – his first of the game with 8:11 remaining — forcing a french timeout.
France pounded the USA on the glass, winning the rebounding edge 44-28 with 13 offensive rebounds. Free-throws went to France with a calm 21-for-25 (84%) display. USA connected on 14-of-21 (66.7%) — missing all seven in the fourth-quarter on 4-of-11 shooting in the crucial last 10 minutes.
From there it was all France as they held the USA to just seven points in last seven minutes to pull-off the massive upset.
Rudy Gobert had monster double-double with 21 points, 16 rebounds, 3 blocks. The Utah Jazz center was aggressive throughout shooting 6-of-12 from the field and forced the USA front-line into foul problems with 9-of-10 free-throws. Orlando Magic combo guard Evan Fournier torched the Americans with 22 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds.
Euro-League stud Nando de Colo added 18 points, 2 rebounds and Frank Ntilikina 11 points, 3 assists was also instrumental in the historic french victory. Long time veteran Nicolas Batum joined in with 6 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists.
Mitchell played well and was the lone bright spot for a young and inexperienced USA team with 29 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists. Marcus Smart had a strong opening-half and finished with 11 points, 2 assists. Kemba Walker was held in check and limited to 10 points, 3 rebounds.
France (5-1) will play undefeated Argentina (6-0) in the first of two first-semi-finals in Beijing.
Australia (6-0) will face Spain (6-0) in the battle of undefeated teams for a spot in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Finals.
The USA (5-1) moves to the 5-8 classification round and will take on Serbia (5-1).
Both France and Spain have qualified for the 12-team 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games as the best two remaining European teams. They will be joined by the USA and Argentina as the two best FIBA Americas regional zone teams.
The rest of the field includes Australia, Nigeria, Iran and hosts Japan.
The final four remaining spots will be filled via four, last-minute six team Olympic qualifying tournaments set for June 2020.