Barbosa, Brazil find scoring touch, clinch semifinal berth
LAS VEGAS -- Leandro Barbosa scored 32 points to lead Brazil to a 96-62 victory over Uruguay on Thursday and a berth in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas tournament.
Brazil (4-3) clinched third place and will play Argentina in the semifinals on Saturday.
The top two teams in the tournament earn berths in the Beijing Olympics, while the next three finishers advance to an Olympic qualifying tournament next July.
Argentina beat Brazil 86-79 in overtime on Wednesday in their second-round meeting and Barbosa, the tournament's leading scorer with a 22.3 average, had 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting.
"Since we lost yesterday we came in with a lot more energy and was more physical," Brazil center Nene, who plays for the Denver Nuggets, said after getting eight points and four rebounds against Uruguay. "We'll bring that energy Saturday. It will be a big game for both teams."
With the semifinal winners earning the Olympic berths, the rest of the field talked all tournament about avoiding the United States in the semifinals.
Uruguay (2-5) scored the opening basket of the second half to get within 44-39, but Brazil used its depth and size advantage to take over. Brazil scored 10 straight points and held Uruguay to just three more field goals in the quarter in opening a 74-45 lead.
Barbosa had 15 points in the quarter and except for his two 3-pointers and another by Valter Da Silva, Brazil's points all came near the basket. Batista had all of Uruguay's points in the quarter.
Uruguay's Esteban Batista finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Uruguay still had a chance to finish fifth and play in the Olympic qualifying tournament, but needed Canada to beat Puerto Rico. As the final second of Puerto Rico's victory wound down, the Uruguay players filed out of their seats behind the basket and silently headed for the team bus.
In other action on Thursday:
Puerto Rico 72, Canada 66
On the verge of being eliminated from the FIBA Americas tournament four days ago, Puerto Rico made its way to the semifinals with a victory over Canada.
Puerto Rico (3-4) will face the United States in Saturday's semifinals with the winner of that game earning a berth in the Beijing Olympics.
Last Sunday night, Puerto Rico looked like it wouldn't even reach the second round of this 10-team tournament. It needed Argentina to beat Panama and with two minutes left in regulation Argentina was down seven points.
Most of the Puerto Rico team was in the stands that night to watch Argentina force overtime and go on to a 109-92 victory.
"Our thanks go to the Argentina basketball team because they gave us the opportunity and that's the kind of gift basketball gives," said Puerto Rico guard Carlos Arroyo, who plays for the Orlando Magic.
John Peter Ramos' hook shot two minutes into the fourth quarter gave Puerto Rico a 62-43 lead. Canada (3-4), coming off a third quarter when it shot 3-for-18 from the field, suddenly started hitting shots and went on an 11-0 run.
After Arroyo's driving jumper gave Puerto Rico a 68-61 lead with 3:06 to play, Puerto Rico came up empty on six straight possessions. But Canada didn't take advantage missing three of six free throws before David Thomas' layup got it within 68-66 with 21 seconds left.
Even though Canada didn't reach the semifinals, it -- along with the semifinals losers here -- advanced to an Olympic qualifying tournament next July when the final three berths in Beijing will be decided.
"We all get a little greedy," Canada coach Leo Rautins said. "The top two go from here and that's what we wanted but realistically, with this team's age and experience, the top five gets us where we want to be. We'll be a year older and a year stronger. The road's just beginning."
Mexico 101, Venezuela 91
Anthony Pedroza scored 27 points and Mexico snapped a six-game losing streak by defeating Venezuela on Thursday in the teams' final game at the FIBA Americas tournament.
Mexico (2-5) opened the tournament eight days ago with a 100-89 victory over Puerto Rico then lost its last three games of the first round -- one of which didn't carry over in its record to the second round -- and its first three of the second round, including a 127-100 loss to the United States.
Romel Beck, Mexico's leading scorer at 20.3 points per game, didn't play against Venezuela. Beck, who played at UNLV, was limited to 19 minutes in the loss to Canada on Wednesday because of sore calf muscle and coach Nolan Richardson decided to keep the 6-foot-7 guard out of the final game.
Hector Romero had 23 points for Venezuela (1-6), which finished last among the eight teams that advanced to the second round.
Venezuela shot 51 percent (20-for-39) in taking a 50-46 halftime lead. Mexico held Venezuela to 5-for-15 shooting and 15 points in the third quarter and went ahead 77-65. The lead was as much as 21 points in the fourth quarter, the last time at 93-72 with 4:40 to play.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
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