Spain finished their undefeated run through the FIBA World Cup by beating Argentina in the Final 95-75. They jumped out to an early lead and were never really challenged in a game that became a celebration of long-time international Spanish stars including Rudy Fernandez, Marc Gasol, and the tournament MVP Ricky Rubio.
It was a magnificent and somewhat surprising campaign for the Spaniards, who, while still a respected international power, appeared to have fallen behind some of the younger squads loaded with talent, such as France and especially Serbia, who entered the tournament as almost co-favorites with the United States.
Spain revealed Serbia’s vulnerabilities in a group game beat down, which set them up for their run through the elimination rounds. Their closet call came in the semifinals, where they outlasted Australia 95-88 in two overtimes. Other than that game, they were rarely challenged in the tournament, their second World Championship. their first coming in 2006.
It was in that same year, 2006, that Ricky Rubio had his iconic youth performance, pouring in 51 points in the final of the European U16 championships:
Two years later he would play on the senior team in the 2008 Olympics, and has been a stalwart of the Spanish national team ever since. This World Championship is the crowning moment of what has been a fantastic international career. He became the all time leader in assists in FIBA competitions during this tournament, and was named MVP as he led Spain in scoring and assists, and along with Gasol dominated proceedings.
Here are some highlights from this tournament:
And here he is getting his MVP award:
Rubio was fantastic throughout, averaging over 16 and six, and controlling the whole tournament. He capped it off with a 20 point effort in the final.
Rubio is obviously long gone from the Wolves, but I’ll always consider him a little bit ours. And I couldn’t be happier for him.
For the Wolves, Josh Okogie emerged as the leader of the Nigerian team, which was eliminated after the first group stage, but still won their two “classification” round games. Okogie led the team in scoring and assists, as well as steals and blocks in a break out international performance. Whether that translates back to the NBA remains to be seen, but it was a fine performance from the Wolves’ young wing.