Unlike the last time France and Australia played in this tournament, when the two teams combined for 198 points, Sunday’s bronze-medal game was more of a defensive slugfest.
Also different from the prior meeting was the outcome, as the French used a 22-4 second-half run to defeat the Aussies, 67-59, and capture the bronze for the second straight FIBA World Cup.
Nando de Colo scored 19 points for France, which outscored Australia by 12 in the fourth quarter. The Orlando Magic’s Evan Fournier, the only other French player to score in double figures, finished with 16 points.
Although Australia shot a respectable 46 percent from the field overall, France’s perimeter defense was stifling, as the Aussies made just four of their 17 3-point attempts. They also only took nine free throws, making five of them, and turned the ball over 19 times, which led to 12 of France’s points.
France, which trailed by as much as 15, got off to a sluggish start, missing two of its first eight shots of the game before scoring just 21 first-half points.
Down the stretch, the French got a big boost from point guard Andrew Albicy, who drilled a pair of 3-pointers including one with 1:06 remaining that extended France’s lead to seven. Fournier, who now heads into the NBA season with tremendous momentum following a terrific World Cup, connected on a crucial layup with just over four minutes left.
Australia went ice cold late, missing six of its last eight shots while committing five turnovers in the final 4 ½ minutes. Joe Ingles led the Aussies with 17 points, while Patty Mills had 15, nearly seven points lower than his tournament average.
France and Australia will now turn their attention to next year’s Olympics, which they have both qualified for. The other countries that have already clinched their spots are the USA, Argentina, Spain, Nigeria and Iran. Japan, by virtue of hosting the Olympics, is also in. Four additional teams will be added to the field via next July’s FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which will feature four six-team tournaments with the winners of each advancing.