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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

As Russia Stumbles, Spain Takes Eurobasket Prize

KATOWICE, Poland — After defeating unbeaten Greece last week to qualify for the Eurobasket quarterfinals, defending champions Russia had their eyes on another title. But after falling 79-68 Thursday to a Serbian team who virtually shut down their offense, the Russian team had a mixed weekend, end up in seventh place overall for the tournament while Spain went on to defeat Serbia for the title.

Croatia nabbed an automatic bid for the 2010 world championship on Saturday, beating Russia 76-69 behind 18 points and eight assists from Roko-Leni Ukic. Sergei Monya led Russia with 18 points.

But Vitaly Fridzon scored 26 points to lead Russia past Turkey 89-66 on Sunday for seventh place at the tournament. Center Omer Asik had 24 points and 10 rebounds for Turkey.

Pau Gasol scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead world champion Spain to an 85-63 win over Serbia in the final of the European Basketball Championship on Sunday.

The victory gives Spain its first-ever European title after six runner-up finishes, and was extra sweet for Gasol, who had to settle for silver at the 2003 and 2007 editions of the tournament.

"It was a great game, and obviously we won the final that we lost twice before this year, so I'm extremely happy and it's an unforgettable day for us," Gasol said. "We just worked so hard to win this championship, and I'm just super proud of my teammates."

Two years after losing in the final in the closing seconds, Spain made sure to take care of business early this year.

The Spaniards dominated from start to finish on both ends of the court, playing pressure man-to-man defense, cleaning up on the boards and pushing the tempo for fast break baskets to jump to a 15-point first quarter lead.

Serbia would never recover from the early onslaught.

"We lost the first half, and probably the game was finished," Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said. "The Spanish team was better and they deserved absolutely this title."

Spain was tipped as the favorite coming into the tournament, but struggled early, dropping its opener to Serbia 66-57 and a second round game to Turkey.

That loss, however, prompted the team to change its attitude and raise its level of play.

"We were aware of our individual quality, but we weren't playing as well or as good as we should have collectively," Gasol said. "So we sat down, and were like, 'It's now or never, we have to react, we have to work together, we have to start having fun playing, playing with enthusiasm.' And it just clicked."

The team went on to win its final five games by an average of 21.2 points.

"At the beginning, we were a little bit concerned, but with hard work and great commitment from players we got to be an excellent defensive team, and we showed it in the last games," Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said.

Serbia, a surprise finalist, had the youngest team at the tournament with an average age of 22.4, and for the first time at the championship it showed against Spain.

"Maybe this final came a little bit early for this team," Ivkovic said. "We don't have this kind of experience, but we don't have any reason to be disappointed."

Earlier Sunday, Greece slipped past Slovenia 57-56 to win the bronze medal.

In a hard-nosed defensive struggle, Greece used a 14-0 run in the first half to open a 10-point gap and hung on in the closing seconds to win the bronze two years after finishing fourth at the tournament.

"Today the team was very focused," Greece forward Antonios Fotsis said. "Everybody wanted to play well and at least win the bronze medal. This is a very big success for us."

Slovenia closed the Greek lead to just one point in the fourth quarter on a free throw from center Erazem Lorbek, but could never pull even despite a handful of chances.

Leading 57-56 with 4.6 seconds to play, Greece guard Vasileios Spanoulis missed two free throws, opening the door one final time for Slovenia. Bostjan Nachbar grabbed the rebound off the Spanoulis miss but couldn't hit a desperation three-pointer at the buzzer.

"I am very happy today and very proud of my players," Greece coach Jonas Kazlauskas said. "I think we did a great job, we were leading from the beginning to the last minutes."

Center Sofoklis Schortsanitis came off the bench to lead Greece with 23 points, while point guard Jaka Lakovic scored 16 points for Slovenia.

Also, France beat Croatia 69-62 behind 18 points from Antoine Diot in the fifth-place game.

Both teams had already qualified for next year's world championship in Turkey and were only playing to determine the final placings.