France beats Australia 67-59 for bronze medal at World Cup
BEIJING (AP) — France defeated Australia 67-59 on Sunday to take the third-place game in the World Cup. It was France's second straight bronze medal in the event and matches its best finish.
Australia, which led for most of the game, failed again to win any medal in a major international basketball tournament. The Boomers are 0-4 in Olympic bronze-medal games, and now 0-1 in the World Cup — previously known as the world championship.
Nando De Colo scored 19 to lead France with 16 from Evan Fournier. Joe Ingles had 17 for Australia with 15 from Patty Mills. Utah Jazz center Ruby Gobert, who scored 21 against the United States in a quarterfinal victory, scored only two points — but the French prevailed anyway, and will be the only medal-winning team from 2014 to win another this year.
"It means everything," Gobert said of the bronze. "Obviously it's not the one we wanted. We all know that. But being able to come back — we're the only team that was on the podium five years ago and on the podium now. So it shows our heart, shows the commitment we have and we're only going to get better from that."
Australia led for the entire game until France inched ahead 47-46 on two free throws with 9:01 left in the game. France continued to surge with Australia looking exhausted — much like its loss in the semifinals against Spain.
France's poor shooting and Australia's defense meant a low-scoring first half, which Australia led 30-21. France shot only 25 percent from the floor, with many shots missed from inside.
Australia built a 40-25 lead to open the third quarter. But then France finally awakened, and cut the lead to 46-42 after three quarters with Nando De Colo, Fournier and Vincent Poirier carrying the scoring load heading into the deciding final quarter.
France held Andrew Bogut to five points and Matthew Dellavedova to four, another big reason for the win.
"It feels good to finish on a good note," Fournier said. "When you see Australia, the players, Bogut, Dellavedova, I know those guys and it's awful for them. But that's definitely what we didn't want, to finish the tournament feeling like (crap) like that. We finished third before and it felt great. This one is kind of different because we felt like we could have done better."
France: Fournier took his medal off shortly after the award ceremony and handed it to his father as a gift. "I already have one," the Orlando Magic guard said. ... Nicolas Batum had six assists for the winners.
Australia: Players walked off the court quickly and quietly when the game was over, no one saying a word to the assembled reporters waiting for them on the way to the locker room. Many had their heads bowed, clearly frustrated. ... Ingles was 6 for 6 from 2-point range, 1 for 5 from 3-point range.
Australia will have to agonize over another chance for its first World Cup or Olympic medal slipping away.
The Boomers are now 0-5 in bronze-medal games on the sport's top international stages — with all four of the previous chances coming at the Olympics. They lost 89-88 to Spain in the 2016 bronze game at Rio, 89-71 to Lithuania at the 2000 Sydney Games, 80-74 to Lithuania at Atlanta in 1996 and 78-49 to the U.S. at Seoul in 1988.
France took silver in the 1948 and 2000 Olympics. France was also the bronze medalist in the last World Championship (now World Cup) in 2014 and finished fourth in 1954.
This was only the third meeting between Australia and France in a major event.
Before Sunday, the teams split two matchups — both at the Olympics. Australia beat France 87-66 in the group stage at the Rio Games in 2016, and France prevailed over the then-host Aussies 76-52 in the semifinals of the 2000 Sydney Games.
France: Qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Australia: Qualified for 2020 Tokyo Olympics.