Italy, Latvia advance as group winners in Olympic qualifying


Italy and Latvia claimed their second straight victories Tuesday to advance to the semifinals as group winners in their respective qualifying tournaments for men’s basketball at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

In Turin, Italy defeated Croatia 67-60 in Group B. Marco Belinelli led the hosts with 19 points while Bojan Bogdanovic scored 26 for the 1992 silver medalists. Croatia can still reach the semifinals with a win in its final group game against Tunisia.

In Group A, Francisco Cruz scored 12 points in the final quarter to help Mexico beat Iran 75-70. Despite a game-high 20 points by Behram Yakchali, Iran had its second straight defeat and was eliminated from the competition.

Mexico and Greece have already secured their semifinal spots before playing each other Wednesday.

In Belgrade, Dairis Bertans scored 18 points in Latvia’s 71-59 win over the Czech Republic to earn the Baltic state top spot in Group B. The Czechs will play Japan for the second semifinal berth.

In Group A, Puerto Rico bounced back from Monday’s opening defeat against host Serbia by beating Angola 91-81. Led by Carlos Arroyo’s 18 points, Puerto Rico saw a 27-point lead reduced to just 10 in the final quarter.

Earlier Tuesday in Manila, France rallied from a 10-point deficit against the hosts to beat the Philippines 93-84, and Canada defeated Turkey 77-69 on the opening day of their qualifying tournament.

Nando De Colo scored 11 points in the third quarter and 27 overall to help France overcome a strong start by the Philippines. New Zealand is the third team in Group B.

In Group A, NBA point guard Cory Joseph led Canada with 21 points, while Turkey’s Sinan Guler scored 14. Canada can secure a semifinal spot as group winner by beating Senegal on Wednesday.

The winners of the three six-nation qualifying tournaments will be added to the 12-team draw in Rio.

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