LJUBLJANA, Slovenia (AP) — Two-time defending champion Spain routed Serbia 90-60 on Wednesday to reach the semifinals of the European basketball championship.
Point guard Sergio Rodriguez scored 22 points and forward Rudy Fernandez went 4-for-4 from the 3-point range in adding 19 for Spain, which is seeking to become the first team to win three straight European titles since Yugoslavia in the 1970s.
Spain led by as many as 40 points and made 13 of 25 attempts from beyond the arc.
“It was our best game of the tournament so far,” Spain coach Juan Orenga said. “Our goal is to grow during the tournament and win the gold medal.”
Spain had struggled through the first two rounds, losing three of eight games. But it may have been using its best for the really important games.
“We played aggressive, it was time to show everybody what we can do,” Spain point guard and Minnesota Timberwolves’ Ricky Rubio said.
Spain caught Serbia cold at the start and quickly pulled away. The shot abandoned Serbia, which went 1-for-11 from the field in the first quarter.
“Our hands were just tied. Most of us had never played against a rival so strong as Spain,” Serbia guard Nemanja Nedovic said. “They got a big lead early.”
By the time Serbia’s defense began to show signs of life, Spain had a comfortable double-digit lead and finished the first quarter 16 points up.
“We prepared very seriously for this game, we knew we had to play with energy from the start,” said Rubio, who had six rebounds, six assists and four steals to go with five points.
Rodriguez made a 3-point play, Serbia turned the ball over and Marc Gasol hit a jumper and put Spain up by 23. The lead grew to 43-17 when Fernando San Emeterio made another jumper.
Pablo Aguilar nailed a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer to leave Spain ahead 48-23.
It took Serbia 4:30 minutes to score its first points of the third quarter, but soon it was 69-29 and a 40-point game as Spain put on a basketball clinic for the tournament’s youngest team.
“It was a shame how we played today,” said Serbia’s captain Nenad Krstic, who only played 13 minutes after being double-teamed by the aggressive Spanish defense. “Usually our outside shooters can compensate, but we didn’t have our shot.
“We are a young team and we certainly lacked experience today.”