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France halts Spain's Cup title hopes

MADRID -- The exodus began with exactly one minute and five seconds left, as the scheduled fiesta unexpectedly turned into a funeral. Spain slipped quietly out of the FIBA Basketball World Cup set in their own country to a chorus of jeers directed, without subtlety, at their head coach, Juan Orenga.

Those who headed disconsolately to the exits before the buzzer signaled the end of the hosts' dreams of lifting the title trophy missed an appropriate exclamation point. With one last free throw, Rudy Gobert, who had tormented the Spaniards all game, sealed France's 65-52 quarterfinal upset over its old rival.

The 22-year-old 7-footer from Saint-Quentin shut down a team, deemed the only credible challenger to Team USA, with hustle and ample heart, towering in the middle and serving as a totem for a victory that few saw coming.

"We came, we worked a lot in practice, we had nothing to lose," said Gobert, who finished with five points (2-for-4), 13 rebounds and one block. "They had the crowd. We just played hard."

Hard enough to open with an 8-0 run. Tough enough to hold their nerve when Spain rallied in the third quarter after trailing 35-28 at halftime. Ambitious enough to remember the call of their captain Boris Diaw, who told his teammates "not to have any regrets, to give their all and leave everything on the court."

Gobert clearly listened. From a second-quarter dunk on Pau Gasol to almost flawless post play to helping hold two All-Star big men in check, Gobert was everywhere he needed to be. His 13 rebounds were only one fewer than the brothers Gasol and the ineffective Serge Ibaka combined, and a key factor in a 50-28 advantage on the boards.

The young big man's single block of the night, on a Pau Gasol attempt, preempted France's closing 10-0 burst.

"I knew everybody was expecting me to help the team," said Gobert, who averaged 2.3 points and 3.4 for the Utah Jazz last season amid two stints in the D-League. "Everybody knew I could stop them. That was just my mission. Everyone else played great offensively. I just had to stop Pau. He's one of the best players in the world and if you stop him, they're not as strong."

Spain had rolled to six straight victories coming into the game by running opponents into the ground in transition over and over. But even without Tony Parker, the 2013 European champions were able to control the pace. The tempo, deliberately, was decreased.

"The second problem was holding them in the half court," France coach Vincent Collet said. "You cannot stop Pau Gasol all the time but we were digging a lot. We took risks with their group of outside players. We used [Ricky] Rubio's defender to give extra help inside, leaving him open sometimes. We tried to put pressure on their big men every time."

Rubio scored only four points on 1-for-7 shooting and was part of Spain's 2-for-22 effort from 3-point range. The Minnesota Timberwolves point guard simply was outplayed by Thomas Huertel, who scored 10 of his 13 points in the fourth quarter.

"We knew that if we kept it close, they're going to die because they can't lose this game," Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum said. "It's their World Cup in their home country. So if we stayed close, we'd have a chance down the stretch and we did it.

"We had momentum on our side. And the crowd wasn't into it at the end. That was our goal. Don't bring the crowd into it. When they started coming back, we didn't panic. We stayed calm. They got a good run but we stayed together, we kept playing our defense, we stayed together and we did it."

The only noise came with 30 seconds remaining. Pau Gasol, walking off after picking up his fifth and last foul, saw the crowd at the Palacio de Deportes rise for a thunderous ovation.

Now 34, this might have been the new Chicago Bulls big man's goodbye to the international stage.

"I wish I could continue to play until I'm 50 but I doubt it," Gasol said.

A golden generation of Spain basketball -- with Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro and Felipe Reyes included -- seemed destined to get one more shot at Team USA. Instead, it's Les Bleus who march on to the semifinals and a date with Serbia.

"It's a very painful loss," Pau Gasol said. "It's comparable to the loss we had in Athens in 2004 to win every game in the championship to get to the quarterfinals, being the favorite and then losing.

"It's a disappointing, painful loss, but it's part of the sport."


Serbia downs Brazil to reach final four

Leandro Barbosa summed it up in simple terms.

"It was a disaster," he said.

Anderson Varejao, too: "We played badly and they played well and that's why they won."

Brazil's predicted run to the World Cup semifinals was blown apart in an 84-56 rout at the hands of Serbia.

Led by 23 points from Euroleague star Milos Teodosic and an ever-swarming defense that limited Brazil's NBA quartet of Barbosa, Tiago Splitter, Nene and Varejao to a combined 24 points, the Serbs pulled away with a 21-2 run that started at the end of the second quarter and lasted well into the third.

"There was a moment in the match where we had an emotional blackout, that had a major influence in our game in the rest of the third and the fourth period," Brazilian head coach Ruben Magnano said.

The result could have some influence on Brazil's Olympic bid in 2016, when it will host the event in Rio. FIBA officials in Madrid confirmed to ESPN.com that Brazil has not yet been awarded a berth in its own Olympics with a proposal on the issue to be put before the governing body's board next spring. The team might have to qualify via next summer's FIBA Americas Championship.

"It's very sad because we know we could have gone further but we didn't," Barbosa said. "We have a great team. Right now, we lost but we're still together. This was just a bad day."

"If it's in our hands we will take this," Teodosic said. "We will not give it away. If we have a chance in the semifinal, we want to go on."