HIROSHIMA (FIBA World Championship) - Spain proved their status as one of the favourites of the 2006 FIBA World Championship as they brushed aside New Zealand 86-70 as Jorge Garbajosa, Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro each had 16 points.
Alex Mumbru added 12 off the bench for the winners, while Kirk Penney led New Zealand with 15 points in a losing cause.
"We were a bit nervous to start the game, but we picked it up after a while," said Mumbru, who played 19 minutes in the blowout.
Craig Bradshaw added 12 points, Paul Henare 11 and Casey Frank 10 points for the Tall Blacks.
New Zealand started the game without starting point guard Mark Dickel, who was suspended by the world governing body FIBA earlier in the day for the first three games of the tournament after testing positive for cannabis.
The Tall Blacks found themselves without their both starting guards just 34 seconds into the game as Penney was charged with his second foul. Penney picked up his third foul with 1:46 left in the first quarter. Still, New Zealand was down only 25-21 after 10 minutes.
They were still down only 36-35 midway through the second quarter, but Pepu Hernandez's team used a 12-1 run to close out the first half with a 48-36 lead.
New Zealand's foul troubles continued as Penney, Pero Cameron and Phill Jones all picked up their fourth fouls in the final five minutes of the third quarter. That allowed Spain to go on a 13-2 run to close the period ahead 68-48.
New Zealand could not make a comeback against the Spanish bench as Cameron and Jones both fouled out in the final period.
"It was pretty obvious today we were not as good a basketball team as Spain was," New Zealand coach Tab Baldwin said.
"We struggled with Pau Gasol. tehy did a good job finding the right people good shots."
Baldwin also made it clear he wasn't happy with the officiating, calling it "pretty skewed".
"I'm tired of seeing basketball players flop around the basketball courts of this world.
I think they need to stand on their own two feet," said the Tall Blacks coach, whose team was whistled for 29 fouls compared to 16 against Spain.
"I actually thought it would be a tighter game. I expected more pressure from them," Gasol said. "But this team (Spain) is tough to beat. People really have to bring their A game to beat us."
Spain next face Panama on Sunday while New Zealand another tough test against Germany.
By DAVID HEIN
Exclusively for FIBA