Basketball: Amazing double for Marc Gasol as Spain win second World Cup, France recover late to earn bronze

Spain's Marc Gasol guards Facundo Campazzo of Argentina, as teammate Pierre Oriola gives support in the Basketball World Cup final in Beijing on Sept 15, 2019.
Spain's Marc Gasol guards Facundo Campazzo of Argentina, as teammate Pierre Oriola gives support in the Basketball World Cup final in Beijing on Sept 15, 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE
France's Nando De Colo (left) driving against Australia's Chris Goulding during the Basketball World Cup third place game in Beijing on Sept 15, 2019.
France's Nando De Colo (left) driving against Australia's Chris Goulding during the Basketball World Cup third place game in Beijing on Sept 15, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (AP) - Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He is getting good at hoisting trophies. He basked in a championship celebration for the second time in three months - and this time, he did it for his country.

Tournament Most Valuable Player Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday (Sept 15).

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one they claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors centre becomes just the second player to win an NBA title and a Fiba world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom - who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and the United States in 2010.

Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the US. This time, Vamos Espana! Llull and Rudy Fernandez - the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy - went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Earlier in the afternoon, France defeated Australia 67-59 to win the third-place play-off - their second-straight bronze medal and matching their best finish.

Australia, who led for most of the game, failed again to win any medal in a major international basketball tournament. The Boomers are 0-4 in Olympic bronze-medal games, and now 0-1 in the World Cup - previously known as the World Championship.

In the final, Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), who got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

Spain led 43-31 at the half, riding the strength of two big runs. They ran out to a quick 14-2 lead, only to have Argentina answer with an 11-0 spurt. But when that ended, Spain came back with a 17-1 run and took what was then its biggest lead at 31-14.

Scola, even at 39 years still Argentina's best player throughout the tournament, did not get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third.

But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans - who stood in the stands a few rows from their team's bench, singing and chanting for much of the game - were relatively quiet. The day belonged to Spain. And the year belongs to Gasol.

In the earlier game, Nando de Colo scored 19 to lead France with 16 from Evan Fournier. Joe Ingles had 17 for Australia with 15 from Patty Mills. Utah Jazz centre Ruby Gobert, who scored 21 against the US in France's shock quarter-final victory, had only two points.

Australia led for the entire game until France inched ahead 47-46 on two free throws with 9:01 left in the game. France continued to surge with Australia looking exhausted - much like their loss in the semi-finals to Spain.

France's poor shooting and Australia's defence meant a low-scoring first half, which Australia led 30-21. France shot only 25 per cent from the floor, with many missed from inside.

Australia built a 40-25 lead to open the third quarter. But then France finally awakened, and cut the lead to 46-42 after three quarters with de Colo, Fournier and Vincent Poirier carrying the scoring load heading into the deciding final quarter.

Aussie agony

Australia will have to agonise over another chance for their first World Cup or Olympic medal slipping away.

They lost 89-88 to Spain in the third-play-off at Rio 2016, 89-71 to Lithuania at the 2000 Sydney Games, 80-74 to Lithuania in Atlanta in 1996 and 78-49 to the US in Seoul in 1988.

France took silver in the 1948 and 2000 Olympics and were was also the bronze medallists in the last World Championship (now World Cup) in 2014 and finished fourth in 1954.

This was only the third meeting between Australia and France in a major event.

Before Sunday, the teams split two match-ups - both at the Olympics. Australia beat France 87-66 in the group stage in 2016, and France prevailed over the hosts 76-52 in the semi-finals in 2000.

This was the third Fiba World Cup medal for Argentina, making it the fifth nation with that many after the US (12), Yugoslavia (10), the Soviet Union (eight) and Brazil (six).

Another four nations have two medals, including Spain. Argentina fell to 2-8 all-time against Spain in World Cup or Olympic competition.