Poland had not been to the World Cup in 52 years.
Welcome back, indeed.
Poland — ranked 25th in the world entering this tournament — has clinched a spot in next week’s quarterfinals. Poland beat Russia 79-74 in a second-round opener Friday in Foshan, China, a few hours before Argentina topped Venezuela 87-67.
Those results mean Poland (4-0) and Argentina (4-0) are guaranteed spots in the round of eight. Adam Waczynski scored 18 points and Mateusz Ponitka added 14 for Poland, which hadn’t been in the World Cup since 1967.
“It’s a great feeling but we don’t want to stop,” Poland guard Lukasz Koszarek said. “We know it’ll be more difficult and more difficult, but we don’t want to stop.”
Also clinching quarterfinal berths Friday: Serbia, which rolled past Puerto Rico, and Spain, which rallied past Italy.
Mikhail Kulagin scored a game-high 21 for Russia (2-2), which was eliminated from quarterfinal contention. The Russians play their second-round finale on Sunday against Venezuela.
Poland shot only 36%, but went 35 for 38 from the foul line.
“I think it means everything,” Poland coach Mike Taylor said. “I think the country can take self-confidence from the performance of these players. We can compete. We can do it.”
Poland led by one with 2:20 left when Ponitka drove the lane, stumbled to the floor under the basket and somehow fired the ball out to Aaron Cel in the left corner as he fell. Cel hit a 3-pointer off the improbable assist, putting Poland up 72-68 and kept the lead the rest of the way.
“This is the competitive will, the heart, the toughness of our team — to find a way and keep competing,” Taylor said.
Russia led 40-29 late in the half, but Ponitka made a 30-footer to beat the buzzer to end the second quarter and cut Poland’s deficit to six going into the break. The Russian lead was still seven late in the third, but Poland ended the game on a 29-17 run.
“It was a very difficult loss,” Russia guard Vitaly Fridzon said. “We controlled the game. … Devastating to lose like that. Maybe we lacked some luck.”
Russia coach Sergey Bazarevich said the free-throw disparity — Russia shot 19, half as many as Poland — was a major factor.
“If you look at the stats, we were better in everything,” Bazarevich said. “In every aspect, we were better.”
ARGENTINA 87, VENEZUELA 67
Gabriel Deck scored 25 points, Luis Scola added 15 and Argentina is back in the World Cup quarterfinals after missing out in 2014.
Argentina shot 53% and held Venezuela to 39% shooting. Michael Carrera led Venezuela with 19 points.
SERBIA 90, PUERTO RICO 47
At Wuhan, Serbia had no trouble with Puerto Rico on the way to remaining unbeaten.
Nemanja Bjelica scored 18 points, Boban Marjanovic added 16 and Nikola Jokic 14 for Serbia (4-0), which shot 56%. David Huertas scored 11 for Puerto Rico, which was held to 27% shooting.
“Not a lot to tell,” Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic said.
Serbia is shooting 61% through four games so far at the World Cup. Jokic (20 for 24) and Marjanovic (19 for 23) are shooting a combined 83%.
SPAIN 67, ITALY 60
Ricky Rubio scored four of his 15 points in a 10-0 run down the stretch that put his team ahead for good, Juan Hernangomez finished with 16 points and Spain rallied past Italy to lock up a quarterfinal spot.
Marc Gasol’s only field goal of the game capped the run with 1:07 left for Spain (4-0). The win also clinched a quarterfinal spot for Serbia (4-0), which will face Spain on Sunday.
Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Italy (2-2), which got 12 from Luigi Datome. Marco Belinelli was held to seven points on 3 for 16 shooting.
FIBA confirmed that Australia is the second team to clinch a spot in next year’s Tokyo Olympics by being the top World Cup finisher from the Oceania region. Japan and Australia are now in the 12-team field. Another six spots will be decided by the end of this World Cup.
Nigeria (2-2) 83, Ivory Coast (0-4) 66
Iran (1-3) 71, Angola (1-3) 62
Tunisia (2-2) 86, Philippines (0-4) 67
China (2-2) 77, South Korea (0-4) 73
U.S. (3-0) vs. Greece (2-1); France (3-0) vs. Lithuania (2-1); Brazil (3-0) vs. Czech Republic (2-1); Australia (3-0) vs. Dominican Republic (2-1)
New Zealand (1-2) vs. Japan (0-3); Canada (1-2) vs. Jordan (0-3); Turkey (1-2) vs. Montenegro (0-3); Germany (1-2) vs. Senegal (0-3)
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