Venezuela men’s basketball coach Néstor García smacked his forehead, grimaced and paced – unable to believe his team’s foolishness.
Fortunately for the Venezuelans, they survived it in a 72-68 win over China on Wednesday.
Up four with 3.8 seconds left, Nestor Colmenares – who led Venezuela with 16 points and five rebounds and added four assists – fouled Zhou Peng on a 3-point attempt. With a narrow path to victory opened by Colmenares’ blunder, Peng missed the shot. That effectively ended the chance at a hard-fought comeback after Venezuela built a 25-10 first-quarter lead.
This was probably just a matchup to determine the order of fifth and sixth in the six-team Group A – a hallow accomplishment. Just the pool’s top four teams advance.
But Venezuela still gets the pride of an Olympic victory. The next step is beating another nation. Venezuela, which also qualified for the 1992 Games, is now 3-0 against China and 0-7 against everyone else.
Yi Jianlian scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead China, which has now lost 10 straight Olympic games dating back to 2008.