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Nigeria, Iran clinch Olympic berths in men’s basketball; Spain tops Serbia

Nikola Jovic of Serbia tries to pass the ball as Rudy Fernandez of Spain defense during their Group J second phase match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, at the Wuhan Sports Center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Andy Wong / Associated Press)
Nikola Jovic of Serbia tries to pass the ball as Rudy Fernandez of Spain defense during their Group J second phase match for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, at the Wuhan Sports Center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Andy Wong / Associated Press)
By Tim Reynolds Associated Press

Nigeria and Iran are going to the Olympics. China’s World Cup run came to a disappointing end. And Serbia is unbeaten no more, making a third consecutive meeting with the U.S. in a gold-medal game now unlikely.

Nigeria clinched the Olympic berth that goes to the top African finisher in the World Cup by beating China 86-73 on Sunday. It’s the third straight Olympic trip for Nigeria.

“Right now, we kind of feel like it’s the golden age of Nigerian basketball,” said Ike Diogu – one of five NBA players on his country’s World Cup roster.

Nigeria’s victory over China also meant the hosts would not earn the berth going to the top Asian finisher. Instead, that goes to Iran after it beat the Philippines 95-75. China will have to go through a qualifying tournament next summer.

“Unbelievable,” Iran forward Michael Rostampour said. “The highs and lows of this World Cup are just ridiculous. … This is a great day to be an Iranian.”

Serbia lost to Spain 81-69 in a matchup of teams that came into Sunday night with 4-0 records. Serbia will now face unbeaten Argentina in the quarterfinals at Dongguan, China, on Tuesday – with the winner there likely being in the same bracket with the U.S. in the semifinals.

Spain will head to Shanghai for a quarterfinal game with Poland, which lost to Argentina earlier Sunday 91-65.

Spain 81, Serbia 69: Spain was down by nine early before taking control in a game where Serbian star Nikola Jokic was ejected after picking up two technical fouls in the third quarter.

Ricky Rubio scored 19, Victor Claver had 14 and Marc Gasol added 11 for Spain (5-0). Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 26 points and grabbed 10 rebounds for Serbia (4-1), which was held to 34.3 points below its average from the first four games of the tournament.

The Serbs lost gold-medal games to the U.S. at the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. If they see the U.S. again in this tournament, it’ll likely be in Friday’s semifinals – provided both teams advance.

Argentina 91, Poland 65: Luis Scola was brilliant again for Argentina (5-0), scoring 21 points. A.J. Slaughter scored 16 points for Poland (4-1), which shot 38% and committed 23 turnovers.

Italy 94, Puerto Rico 89 (OT): Marco Belinelli scored 27 points and Danilo Gallinari scored 22 as Italy (3-2) rallied from a 26-point third-quarter deficit, putting together a 42-9 run and then holding on in overtime. Renaldo Balkman scored 14 points and Angel Rodriguez scored 13 for Puerto Rico (2-3).

Russia 69, Venezuela 60: Andrey Vorontsevich led Russia (3-2) with 17 points. Michael Carrera had a game-high 19 for Venezuela (2-3).

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