MONTEVIDEO (Uruguay) – Nine years later, Mexico will return to a FIBA World Cup. Omar Quintero’s squad took care of business in the last game of the Americs Qualifiers, defeating Uruguay on the road (82-69) and unleashing a celebration after punching their ticket to basketball’s most prestigious tournament, to be played in Philippines, Japan and Indonesia in August of 2023.
Mexico will play in its sixth FIBA World Cup and second in 49 years (1959, 1963, 1967, 1974, 2014 and 2023) after battling against a tough Uruguayan team that dominated the early moments of the game and was up by 8 points at the end of the first quarter. The rest of the game was a different story for Mexico, who capitalized on Uruguay’s 15 turnovers by scoring 20 points and defended their lead into the final buzzer.
Uruguay’s sharpshooters were on fire early in the game as they nailed 6 of their first 9 attempts from long distance and opened a 26-18 lead that acted as a warning sign for Mexico. The visiting squad responded with stout defense and won the second period, 28-12, thanks to their work on passing lanes (5 steals and 11 Uruguayan turnovers in the first half) and Pako Cruz’s offensive output.
Uruguay managed to stay in the game thanks to point guard Luciano Parodi, who converted on one of his 7 three-pointers to cut the lead to 3 points (67-64) with just 7:10 left in the fourth quarter. But Mexico kept defending hard and going on runs, the last of which found its exclamation point on a three-pointer from Cruz that made it 82-69 with 1:32 remaining.
And besides Mexico celebrating their return to a World Cup after 9 years, Uruguay got to say goodbye and pay homage to one of their legends from the sport: Esteban Batista, who suited up for them one last time in his 116th game.
Gabriel Girón led the way for Mexico with 17 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists, while Cruz added 17 points and 5 assists and Fabián Jaimes produced a 10-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Parodi paced Uruguay with 25 points on 7/7 from beyond the arc.