Gorgui Dieng leads shocking Senegal to Croatia upset at Fiba World Cup

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Dieng had 27 points as Senegal scored a second straight upset victory, this time over heavily-favoured Croatia at the basketball World Cup on Monday.

Gorgui Dieng had 27 points for Senegal in their win over Croatia on Monday. Pierre-Philippe Marcou / AFP / September 1, 2014
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Hosts Spain passed their first real test at the Fiba World Cup with flying colours on Monday when they beat Brazil 82-63 to book a last 16 berth alongside a Greek team who brushed aside Puerto Rico 90-79.

Both teams improved their records to 3-0 but Croatia’s passage into the knockout stage of the competition was put on hold after a shock 77-75 defeat by Senegal, whose centre Gorgui Dieng shone with 27 points and eight rebounds.

Having strolled to easy wins over Egypt and Iran, the Spaniards expected a tougher clash against an athletic Brazilian team but they pulled away after a blistering first quarter gave them a 30-14 lead in Granada.

Hitting top gear on the road to an expected final against holders United States, who can seal their last-16 berth when they meet New Zealand on Tuesday, Spain excelled with a hugely entertaining high-tempo performance.

The depth of the Spanish and the American rosters, packed with NBA quality, has made other medal contenders look second best but the host nation’s Chicago Bulls forward Pau Gasol was confident there was still room for improvement.

“It’s impossible to play 40 perfect minutes but we were good in terms of intensity and in the first and third quarters we played at a very high level,” he told Cadena Ser radio.

Gasol enjoyed another stellar night with 26 points and nine rebounds, overshadowing his fellow NBA stalwarts Nene Hilario, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao who netted a combined total of 23 points for Brazil.

Greece dominated against the Puerto Ricans from start to finish in Seville with four of their players ending up in double digits, while on defence they confined the opposition to just 24 field goals from 62 attempts.

The Senegalese had won just two of 15 games in their previous three World Cup campaigns and arrived in Spain as one of the also-rans with little or no chance of making an impact.

Having upset Puerto Rico after an opening defeat by Greece, however, the West Africans produced the shock of the tournament against Croatia to the delight of several hundred of their fans who danced joyfully in the stands.

“We joked around coming here saying we were trying to make history, but we really had in mind that we wanted to make history,” Senegal centre Hamady Ndiaye told Fiba’s website.

Captain Maleye Ndoye added: “We rode the wave from (Sunday’s win over Puerto Rico) and got another great win. It would be great to keep riding the wave and we will be just as focussed for the next game against Argentina.”

Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa made no excuses for his weary outfit, who had clearly failed to recover from Sunday’s bruising 90-85 win against Argentina in which forward Dario Saric had six teeth knocked out after being elbowed by an opponent.

“We have suffered before in games like this because of our Balkan mentality and allowing Senegal to collect so many offensive rebounds in the first quarter was unacceptable,” Repesa told Croatian media.

“If you play with fire you will get burnt but although we have made it difficult for ourselves, I am confident because our fate is still in our own hands.”

Argentina came from behind to beat the Philippines 85-81, European champions France hammered Egypt 94-55 and Serbia laboured to an 83-70 defeat of Iran as all three sides stayed on course to reach the knockout rounds.

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