Ricky Rubio, Spain hold off Greece

Updated: September 4, 2010, 6:35 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ISTANBUL -- Juan Carlos Navarro scored 22 points for Spain in an 80-72 victory that eliminated Greece from the basketball world championships Saturday.

The Spaniards made 8 of 18 3-pointers and used a 13-3 run in the fourth quarter to push ahead during the game in the round of 16.

Greece closed within 72-68 on Vasileios Spanoulis' layup with 1:01 left in the game, but Ricky Rubio answered with two free throws.

"It was very a tough game for us," Rubio said of a game which drew 15,000 to Sinan Erdem Dome. "Obviously it was not easy. We have faced some similar problems before with teams like Lithuania because they play very physically and tough."

Rudy Fernandez of the Portland Trailblazers scored 14 for Spain.

Dimitrios Dimantidis and Nikolaos Zisis each had 16 points for the Greeks, which has lost to Spain seven straight times. Sofoklis Schortsanitis added 13 points.

Spain built a 37-31 going into halftime as Greece missed all three of its 3-point attempts.

"We had trouble attacking their zone," Greek coach Jonas Kazlauskas said. "Our shooting from outside was not strong enough to beat a team like Spain." In the second half, Greece made seven of 20 3-point attempts.

Still, Greece opened the second half with a 7-0 run keyed by turnovers caused by Schortsanitis, who finished with 13 points.

First, the Greek center ripped the ball from Navarro.

After a jumper by Zisis, the 6-9 center stayed on his feet to easily block a running layup attempt by 7-1 Marc Gasol. Antonios Fotsis then hit a corner three to put Greece up 38-37 two minutes into the half.

[+] EnlargeJuan Carlos Navarro
Garrett W. Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesJuan Carlos Navarro scored 22 points to help Spain into the round of 16 at the basketball world championships.

Greece built its lead to as much as 51-45 with 2:45 left in the third quarter, but Spain scored six straight points to end the quarter.

The Greeks struggled to shoot over Spain's zone in the last quarter, making only seven of 18 field goal attempts.

And when they did get to the free throw line, the struggles didn't end: Greece missed nine of 16 free throw attempts in the game.

"We wanted to play zone because some matchups on the pick and roll were giving up problems," Scariolo said.

Spain will play Serbia on Wednesday in the quarterfinals.

Serbia 73, Croatia 72

Oklahoma City Thunder center Nenad Krstic had 16 points and Aleksander Rasic scored five points in the last 21 seconds to help Serbia edge Croatia in the round of 16 at the basketball world championship Saturday.

Croatian guard Marko Popovic made two free throws with 5 seconds left to tie the game at 72, but Rasic was fouled by Davor Kus as he attempted a shot with 1 second left.

Rasic made a free throw and Croatia was eliminated when Popovic's full-court shot fell short as time expired.

"The game was very, very tough this night," Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said. "It was necessary to play 40 minutes just to beat a very good team like Croatia."

Rasic finished with 15 points for Serbia. Popovic led Croatia with 21 points, and Roko-Leni Ukic and Marko Banic 10 apiece.

"I'm not satisfied that we have made just the round of eight," Ivkovic added.

Croatia was 5 of 24 on 3-point attempts, while Serbia hit 5 of 15.

Serbia made eight of its first 11 field goals in the first major international basketball game between the Balkan neighbors who fought a war in the early 1990s. But Croatia outrebounded Serbia 10-2 and took a 27-19 lead going into the second quarter.

Serbia narrowed the gap to 34-36 at halftime, and in the third quarter the teams traded the lead eleven times.

Serbia took a 65-57 advantage with three minutes left in the game, but Popovic had seven points down the stretch to lead Croatia back.

After Popovic missed his last attempt, he slid into the opposing bench, and laid still, face down, as the Serbs celebrated. Serbian coaches helped him stand.

"You can't be happy when you lose like this," Croatia coach Josip Vrankovic said. "It's a really hard game, but what can we do?"

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this story.