Puerto Rico dumped China out of the Basketball World Cup on Wednesday, as the United States, Serbia, Spain and Luka Doncic’s Slovenia advanced to the second round with perfect records.
Georgia, Brazil and Greece also made it past the group stage, as South Sudan and Cape Verde bowed out after impressive World Cup debuts.
China lost their first two matches and had to beat Puerto Rico in Manila and hope that the other result in the group went their way to stand any chance of progressing.
But they were outclassed from the start, slumping to a 107-89 defeat to tumble out of the tournament.
China still have the chance of a qualifying spot at the Paris Olympics to play for but head coach Aleksandar Djordjevic said his team would “have to be smarter”.
“We have to learn that every possession is important, that every small thing is important,” he said.
“We just gave too many second opportunities to the Puerto Rico team and they know how to handle the ball.”
China, where basketball is a national obsession, will qualify for the Paris Games if they finish as the highest-placed Asian team at the World Cup.
Japan already have one win, while the Philippines, Jordan, Iran and Lebanon have none.
“This is a dogfight, and it’s going to be like that tomorrow,” said Djordjevic, whose team play Angola in the classification matches on Thursday.
“You have to keep your head cool and continue fighting for our goal. Tomorrow is a new game.”
Puerto Rico went through as runners-up behind Serbia, who beat South Sudan 115-83.
South Sudan finished third in Group B and turned their attention towards claiming an Olympic berth.
“You win some, you lose some, but we will fight for another day,” said head coach Royal Ivey.
The US qualified as the top team in Group C after cruising to a 110-62 win over Jordan.
Minnesota Timberwolves shooting guard Anthony “Ant-Man” Edwards took centre stage, scoring 22 points and claiming eight rebounds and four assists in an all-action performance.
Head coach Steve Kerr lauded the way his players combined, saying “the chemistry on this team is amazing”.
“It’s fun watching them together, they’re laughing and having so much fun,” he said.
“I don’t need to motivate them — they motivate themselves because they love the game.”
Greece joined the United States in the next round after roaring back to beat New Zealand 83-74 in a winner-takes-all showdown.
The Greeks trailed by 15 points at one stage but upped their game after half-time and held New Zealand to just 31 points after the interval.
“We’ve been through adversity,” said head coach Dimitris Itoudis, who lost star player Giannis Antetokounmpo on the eve of the tournament when he failed to recover from knee surgery in time.
“I know it’s not a time now to summarise it all but it’s not an easy thing to come from down 15 and fight and keep believing that we’re going to find the right way.”
Doncic again flirted with a triple-double in Slovenia’s 92-77 win over Cape Verde.
The Dallas Mavericks superstar scored 19 points and had seven rebounds and nine assists to help his team pick up their third win out of three.
Georgia went through in second place in Group F after a 70-59 win over Venezuela.
Defending champions Spain finished their first-round campaign with the minimum of fuss, beating Iran 85-65 for their third win out of three.
Brazil went through from Group G in second place after beating Cote d’Ivoire 89-77.
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