BEIJING (Reuters) – Power forward Luis Scola scored a game-high 28 points and grabbed 13 rebounds as Argentina breezed past France 80-66 to book their place in Sunday’s basketball World Cup final against Spain.
France blew the tournament wide open by beating favourites and reigning champions the United States in the quarter-finals, but they never got going here as centre Rudy Gobert struggled and shots from beyond the arc would not drop for them.
Frank Ntilikina top-scored for the French with 16 points and Louis Labeyrie added eight off the bench, but all too often they left open lanes to the basket for the aggressive Argentine attack to exploit.
Scola made the most of their defensive lapses, scoring ten points in the first quarter and he went on to hit three of four three-pointers and make nine of 10 free throws over the course of the game in a dominant offensive performance.
Facundo Campazzo drained a deep three to send the Argentines into halftime leading by seven, and though Labeyrie’s strong first-half showing off the bench had kept the French in touch, they were down by double digits midway through the third period.
Gobert’s game was summed up by a third-quarter dunk attempt that would have cut the lead to eight, but the ball cannoned off the back of the rim as France’s attempt at a comeback stalled.
Argentina’s smothering defence limited Gobert’s opportunities inside and forced France into a succession of three-pointers, but they could only hit seven of their 31 long-range shots on the night.
Led by the energetic efforts of Scola, Argentina closed out the game and will now play their first World Cup final since 2002 against a Spain team that beat Australia 95-88 in a double-overtime thriller earlier on Friday.
(Reporting by Philip O’Connor; Editing by Toby Davis and Christian Radnedge)