(ATR) Argentina and Puerto Rico will face off for the men's basketball gold medal on Sunday at the Pan American Games in Lima.
Argentina's Patricio Garino drives to the basket against the USA. (Lima 2019)
Argentina booked a place in the final for the first time in 24 years by crushing the USA 114-75.
The 39-point blowout equals the worst loss suffered by the United States in international competition. Argentina also beat the USA by 39 points in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.
The United States, represented by an all-star squad of college players from the Big East Conference, was no match for their experienced opponents, who also held a size advantage inside.
A full house at the Coliseo Eduardo Dibos watched as Argentina jumped to an early lead and took a 61-36 advantage into halftime.
“We owed ourselves a match like this," Argentina's Facundo Campazzo told Around the Rings
after the game. "We hadn’t played our best basketball in the first matches and today we could do what we planned and that’s something positive for us."
“We did everything we planned and got stronger with our game and eliminated the USA. Now there’s one match to go.”
The new but experienced coach Sergio Hernández has combined the talents of young new players such as Luca Vildoza, Agustin Caffaro and Tayavek Gallizzi with the experience of former NBA player and 2004 Olympic champion Luis Scola and Campazzo and the strength of Nicolás Laprovittola and Patricio Garino.
Puerto Rico defeated the Dominican Republic to reach the final. (Lima 2019)
Next up is Puerto Rico, which defeated the Dominican Republic 65-63 in the other semifinal on Saturday.
“We don’t have to trust the [point] difference from this match. We played really well but [Sunday] will be a tough match," Campazzo said.
"We came here with one goal. The fact to represent Argentina is an extra boost for us. We promise to give everything for our country and here we are, each one of us giving our best for the team."
Argentina beat the USA in the 1995 final, the only time the country has won the gold in men's basketball at the Pan Ams. Argentina lost the final in 1951 and 1955.
The United States, meanwhile, will be playing for a third consecutive bronze medal when it takes on the Dominican Republic on Sunday. The USA has not won gold in men's basketball at the Pan American Games since 1983.
Written and reported by Olivia Diaz Ugalde in Lima.
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