Tagged in: medal

Spain basketball tops France for fourth EuroBasket gold medal in past six tries

For Spain, almost all of the names on the national team’s roster have changed in recent years.

The expectations didn’t. And neither did the results.

Juancho Hernangomez scored 27 points, his brother Willy Hernangomez added 14 and earned tournament MVP honors, and Spain topped France 88-76 on Sunday to win the EuroBasket gold medal.

It was Spain’s fourth European championship in its past six tries, all those golds coming under coach Sergio Scariolo.

“It’s easy to say that we are extremely happy,” Scariolo said. “We got into this championship in eighth place in the power ranking, and we managed to climb, step by step. … It’s been amazing now to see we are above all those great teams.”

Lorenzo Brown scored 14 points and had 11 assists for Spain, while Jaime Fernandez scored 13.

Evan Fournier led France — which also dropped the gold-medal game at the Tokyo Olympics to the U.S. last summer — with 23 points, while Thomas Heurtel scored 16 and Guerschon Yabusele added 13.

Rudy Gobert of the Minnesota Timberwolves was held to only six points on just two shots from the field for France.

“Spain played better from start to finish,” said Fournier, who plays with the New York Knicks. “They had a clear game plan, and we did not execute ours well enough. … We never really had control of the game. They just played better, man, period.”

This was supposed to be a rebuilding summer for Spain.

Pau and Marc Gasol, the longtime leaders of the program, retired from international play following a quarterfinal loss to the U.S. at the Tokyo Games. Sergio Gonzalez also decided last summer was the right time to walk away, after 16 years with the national team. Sergio Llull and Ricky Rubio, two more of the team’s veterans, couldn’t play because of injuries.

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The winning tradition continued anyway.

Spain is now the reigning Basketball World Cup (won in China in 2019) and EuroBasket champion. It has also medaled in 10 of its past 11 EuroBasket appearances.

“It’s hard to explain with words how I feel,” said Willy Hernangomez, who plays in the NBA for New Orleans. “I’m feeling extremely proud of my teammates, of my coaching staff, of all the Spanish federation from the top to the bottom. We much deserve this gold medal.”

But this young crew also had the exuberance of youth: As Scariolo and Willy Hernangomez were trying to hold a postgame news conference, the rest of Spain’s roster crashed the session, armed with water bottles, and soaked the MVP and their coach.

“That’s the dark side of having a young team,” Scariolo said, as he happily dabbed at his face with a towel. “I don’t see Pau Gasol throwing water around.”

For France, it was another medal — and another instance of coming up a bit short of the shiniest medal. France’s last major crown came in winning EuroBasket in 2013. Since then, the French have obtained two bronzes at the World Cup (2014, 2019), a bronze at EuroBasket (2015), silver at the Tokyo Olympics and now silver again.

The difference was clear: Spain held a massive 35-7 edge in points off turnovers.

“Today, obviously, we have lost the gold,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “They executed their plan perfect.”

Juancho Hernangomez was 6-for-6 from 3-point range in a six-minute span of the second quarter, helping Spain extend what was a 23-14 lead into a 45-26 edge with just about three minutes left in the half.

It was perhaps a mildly unlikely source for a 3-point barrage. He had made a total of 12 3s in his eight previous games in this year’s EuroBasket tournament, and his high in any NBA game is six.

“We needed him today and he was there for us,” Willy Hernangomez said.

An 11-0 run helped France cut what had been a 21-point deficit to just 47-37 at the half — and the momentum carried into the third quarter.

Yabusele’s jumper with 6:52 left in the third got France within 49-46, and everything seemed to be shifting.

But Spain held on. Juancho Hernangomez’s seventh 3-pointer with 7:29 left made it a 71-61 game, and the outcome wasn’t in doubt again. “I cannot be happier as a basketball coach,” Scariolo said.

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Team USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

Team USA’s invincibility in men’s basketball is long gone, and the journey to a fourth successive gold medal is already fraught with adversity.

France gut-punched the Americans with a brilliant finish for an 83-76 triumph to open the Tokyo Olympics on Sunday. It snapped a 25-game Olympic winning streak dating back to 2004 for Team USA.

The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.

It was followed by an amazing possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.

“I got to lead the team because I know these guys,” Fournier said. “It’s a hell of a win. Our country is going to be extremely proud. But it’s just one game, to be honest.”

If there was a moment in this match that best encapsulated the situation between these two teams, it came at the end, when the French calmly shook the Americans’ hands and left the floor with the same business-as-usual demeanor Fournier displayed. Two years ago at the World Cup in China, France celebrated wildly after defeating a much-less-talented Team USA.

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“There’s nothing to be surprised about,” Team USA coach Gregg Popovich said before launching into what has become his go-to statement after losses.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word surprised. That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”

The French won the bronze at that World Cup, but their talent does not compare to that of the Americans.

And it does not explain how a U.S. team built for scoring and shooting went an unexplainable four and a half minutes without a basket down the stretch.

Fatigue was a factor. Three players didn’t get to the team hotel until 1 a.m. on gameday, an unusual set of circumstances. But one of them, Jrue Holiday, was masterful in the fourth quarter as he scored 12 of his 18 points and contributed several other energy plays to help the U.S. build a lead.

The Americans then had a host of stars to lean on such as Durant, Jayson Tatum and Damian Lillard. But they failed as the French ran an execution clinic.

Popovich seemed annoyed by media questions about the upset, as has been his custom. He has overseen losses in five of the past eight games he has coached for the national team dating back to 2019. There were some who admitted the loss was a disappointment, however.

“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” stated Lillard, who shot just 3-of-10 and had two critical turnovers late in the game.

Popovich said he’d been thinking about this rematch for two years and daily since the game was drawn in February. But he never figured out how to slow down Fournier as he repeatedly got free for open looks on the perimeter. Even Holiday, who was brilliant in the NBA Finals, helping the Bucks clinch the title Tuesday, couldn’t stem the tide.

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