SENDAI (FIBA World Championship) - For the second straight game, Argentina were able to rest their star players after taking control of this game early on and rolled to another easy win, defeating Venezuela 96-54.
The Olympic champions played in dominant fashion as they did against Lebanon yesterday and once again forward Walter Herrmann provided a huge boost off the bench, finishing with a game-high 25 points in only 26 minutes of play.
Luis Scola added 17 despite playing only 16 first half minutes. Fabricio Oberto chipped in with 10 in 27 minutes of action, 11 more than any other starter.
There was a scare for Sergio Hernandez's men in the third quarter as Andres Nocioni turned his ankle while falling on the foot of an opponent. But the head coach said his forward would be fine to play on Wednesday after the team's day off tomorrow.
Venezuela were held to 27 per cent shooting and only made one of their 17 three-point attempts in a game in which they never led.
A day after scoring 24 points, including six three-pointers, captain Victor Diaz was held to just six points. Once again Richard Lugo carried the load offensively for Nestor Salazar's side, finishing with 15 points.
Venezuela tied the game at 10-10 on a lay-up by Carlos Cedeno, but, as they did against Lebanon yesterday, Argentina felt the opponent were getting too close and responded with an 8-0 run capped off by Carlos Delfino's three-pointer at the buzzer to take a 18-10 lead after one period.
And Argentina carried that momentum the rest of the way. They outscored Venezuela 21-10 in the second quarter to pull way some more, getting their first double digit lead, 20-10, on Scola's lay up.
They then used an 11-0 run to double their advantage when delfino found Oberto open under the basket for an easy lay-up and a 36-15 lead before Venezuela trimmed the deficit to trail by 18, 39-21 at the break.
The second half was much of the same as Nocioni, Oberto and Pepe Sanchez continued the onslaught. The latter was playing the pick-and-roll to perfection with either Oberto or Wolkowyski - who started the second half in place of Scola - and drained consecutive three-pointers for a 60-33 lead.
Herrmann entered the game near the end of the third period and went on a personal
7-0 run to stretch the lead to 68-34.
In the fourth quarter, Argentina stretched their lead up to 40, 80-40 on a free-throw by Herrmann.
Minutes later he was at the receiving end of a long outlet by Carlos Delfino to convert a lay-up and give his team a 50-point advantage, 94-44 before Venezuela scored several baskets late to keep their deficit under the half-century mark.
After the game, Ginobili emphasised how huge Argentina's bench was to allowing the starters to rest for the long competition ahead.
"There is no doubt that we have one of the deepest benches in the league and it's really great for us because there are a lot of games to be played if we want to go all the way to the final," he said.
Once again Sergio Hernandez had nothing but praise for his players.
"I'm as happy as I was with the performance yesterday. We played well for another 40 minutes and it's great to be able to do so knowing that we have a lot of fans who are watching at home."
By Simon Wilkinson