HIROSHIMA (FIBA World Championship
) - Pau Gasol scored 28 points as Spain survived a valiant effort by Angola, winning 93-83 and clinching first place in Group B of the 2006 FIBA World Championship.
Rudy Fernandez came off the bench to score 16 points and Jorge Garbajosa added 15 as Spain made 59 per cent of their shots in capturing their fourth straight victory in the group and guaranteeing a Round of 16 match against the fourth-placed team from Group A in Saitama.
"We're really happy. That was our goal coming here," Garbajosa said of Spain winning Group B. "But this is just the first part of the tournament. I hope we can have the same success in the second round.
Angola's Joaquim Gomes played his best game of the tournament, scoring 24 points and grabbing 11 rebounds. And Miguel Lutonda added 18 points in a losing cause.
The Africans dropped to 3-1 in the group, but they proved their trio of victories against Panama, Japan and New Zealand were for real.
"Before today we won three games. We knew we had to come up big to beat Spain. We had to make less mistakes and play like a team," Gomes said. "But we showed the world today that we can compete at the top level. What you saw today is what you'll see the rest of the tournament - everybody giving their best and never giving up."
Angola fell behind 7-2 early and saw Joaquim Gomes pick up two fouls in the first two minutes. Spain stayed on their game and never let up, pushing the lead to 25-12 after the first period.
Rudy Fernandez's basket inside extended the advantage to 34-17 with 7:02 remaining in the second. Angola crawled back into the game through their outside shooting as Antonio Carvalho hit two three pointers and Gomes added a three-pointer of his own, trimming the deficit to 39-28 with 2:53 before the break.
After Carvalho hit another trey, Eduardo Mingas buried a long-range shot with 1:00 remaining to make it an eight-point game, 44-36. Gasol scored on a lay-in with seven seconds left, sending Spain into half-time with a 46-36 lead.
Gomes took over the third quarter as he battled with Gasol in the blocks. The power forward's second three-pointer had Angola trailing 57-46. Lutonda somehow converted an accrobatic reverse layup and then buried a three-pointer to keep Angola within reach - down 62-52 with 1:57 remaining.
Gomes then scored the final five points of the third period, as the Africans remained within 65-57 going into the fourth period.
Jose Manuel Calderon, who dished out six assists in the game, pushed the lead back up to 12 with two free throws at the 8:58 mark. Gomes made a layup and then Lutonda cut the game to six points with a four-point play as Calderon fouled Lutonda as he banked in a three-pointer.
Another Lutonda three-pointer with 5:59 remaining brought Angola to within four - at 74-70 - with 5:59 left. But Gasol was too much for the smaller Angolans as he made two inside baskets to push the Spaniards back ahead 81-72 with 4:33 in the game.
Gomes missed a three pointer, which could have trimmed it back to six points and Carlos Cabezas hit two free throws as the lead bulged to 11, 85-74 with 3:16 left.
Gasol scored six points down the stretch as Angola could not get closer than nine the rest of the way.
Gomes said he knew he wasn't helping his team sitting on the bench. And he knew he would have to step it up.
"When I was on the bench (with two fouls) I was thinking I have to find a way to help my team. I had to be ready and when I hit the three-pointer, that gave me a lot of confidence and it never stopped," he said.
In the final games of the group on Thursday, Angola play Germany while Spain face Japan. By David Hein, FIBA