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Basketball World Cup 2023: Serbia Moves into World Cup Semifinals by Beating Lithuania, Which Had Just Topped the U.S.

AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Serbia guard Marko Guduric (23) center, Serbia guard Ognjen Dobric (13) and Serbia guard Aleksa Avramovic (30) celebrate after defeating Lithuania in the Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game between Lithuania and Serbia at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Lithuania beat the U.S. at the 1998 world championships, then failed to medal. Lithuania then beat the U.S. again at the 2004 Olympics, then failed to medal.

And history will repeat itself at this World Cup.

Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 18 of his 21 points in the first half and Serbia — motivated by a serious injury endured by one of its players — topped previously unbeaten Lithuania 87-68 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Tuesday in a result that means Lithuania cannot medal in Manila this weekend. The best Lithuania can do now is fifth place.

“The game against the United States, as you can see now, it’s nothing,” said Lithuania’s Tadas Sedekerskis, who led his team with 14 points. “It’s just history. We don’t have any chances to fight for the medal.”

Serbia played with forward Borisa Simanic’s jersey draped over a chair in its bench area. Simanic lost a kidney after being elbowed in a game against South Sudan last week; he needed surgery after that game, and complications prompted doctors to operate again Sunday and remove the damaged kidney.

“He texted us this morning,” Bogdanovic said. “He texted us, ‘Hey, guys, I’m all right. After two surgeries, I’m all right. I’m healthy. Just get the win. Don’t think about me and let’s win tonight.’ It was a huge boost and huge energy tonight, so thanks to Borisa. This was also for him.”

The loss continues a peculiar jinx for Lithuania, which is 3-8 all-time against the U.S. at the senior men’s national level — and has turned those three wins into exactly zero medals. Lithuania was playing less than 48 hours after beating the U.S. 110-104 to close out second-round play in Manila.

But after Tuesday’s loss, Lithuania insisted it wasn’t still reveling in beating the Americans.

“I can guarantee 100% that we forgot it,” Sedekerskis said.

Serbia (5-1) will play Canada or Slovenia in Friday’s semifinals. The Canada-Slovenia quarterfinal game is Wednesday; the loser plays Lithuania (5-1) in the consolation playoffs Thursday. Teams cannot medal after losing in the quarterfinals, but will play two more games before leaving Manila to determine fifth through eighth place in the tournament’s overall standings.

Serbia is in the semifinals for the third time at the last four World Cups. It lost to Turkey in the semifinals of the 2010 tournament (and then fell to Lithuania in the bronze-medal game) and lost to the U.S. in the title game of the 2014 event.

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Serbia forward Nikola Jovic (5) dunks the ball during the Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game between Lithuania and Serbia at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.

Filip Petrusev scored 17 points and Stefan Jovic added 11 for Serbia.

Rokas Jokubaitis had 13 points and nine assists, while Jonas Valanciunas and Ignas Brazdeikis scored 11 apiece for Lithuania.

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Lithuania players leave after the Basketball World Cup quarterfinal game between Lithuania and Serbia at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, Sept. 5, 2023.