France beats Serbia 81-68 to take Eurobasket bronze medal

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LILLE, France (AP) — France pulled away in the third quarter to beat Serbia 81-68 and win the bronze medal at the European basketball championship on Sunday.

Spain and Lithuania play for the title later Sunday.

France was the defending champion but lost the semifinal to Spain, champion in 2009 and 2011. Serbia won its first seven games at the tournament but lost the final two.

The host team outscored Serbia 21-12 in the third quarter following a 10-0 run and led by as many as 16 points.

Nando de Colo led France with 20 points, while center Rudy Gobert had 15 points and 14 rebounds. Evan Fournier added 15 points, including five straight in the fourth that dispelled any hopes of a Serbian comeback as France took a 12-point lead.

“This is not what we came here for but it’s always good to finish with a win,” de Colo said.

Both Serbia and France clinched spots in qualifying tournaments for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. France coach Vincent Collet said all French stars, including Tony Parker, who had 13 points on 3-for-12 shooting from the field, would return.

“We all agreed that that the main goal is to win an Olympic medal, this is the last chance for this generation to win an Olympic medal, but it won’t be easy to qualify,” Collet said.

Serbia’s star guard Milos Teodosic went 0-for-9 from the field and his only points were three free throws. Bogdan Bogdanovic led Serbia with 14 points. France pulled down 14 more rebounds.

Serbia’s coach Sasha Djordjevic said his team would be back “with more heart and more desire.”

“We want to go to the Olympics,” said Djordjevic, who guided his team to the World Cup silver medal last year.