DONGGUAN, China — The U.S. will leave the World Cup with its worst finish in a major international tournament, assured of finishing no better than seventh after falling to Serbia 94-89 in a consolation playoff game Thursday night.
The previous worst finish for a U.S. men’s team in 45 tournament appearances was sixth at the 2002 world championships. The Americans — the top-ranked team in the world — will be either seventh or eighth in China, depending on the outcome of their consolation finale Saturday.
Harrison Barnes scored 22 for the U.S., which got 18 from Kemba Walker and 16 from Khris Middleton.
Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 28 for Serbia, which ran out to a quick 25-point lead and handed the U.S. its second loss in two days. Vladimir Lucic scored 15 for Serbia, which will play for fifth place Saturday.
A Serbia-U.S. meeting was widely expected to be one for gold this weekend. The prospects of that were hyped plenty going into the tournament — especially after Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic called out the Americans in a television interview by saying “if we meet, may God help them.” But all that was on the line Thursday night was bragging rights and a few world ranking points.
Serbia led 44-40 at the half, a margin that may suggest the first 20 minutes were of the back-and-forth variety.
They were not. Instead, it was just two really big runs, one by each team.
Serbia won the first quarter 32-7. The U.S. won the second quarter 33-12. Serbia shot 64% in the first quarter and the U.S. shot 19%; in the second quarter, it was the Americans shooting 72%, Serbia 31%.