New Zealand edged out by US in World Cup opener


Paolo Banchero scored 21 points off the bench, Anthony Edwards added 14 and the United States shook off a slow start to beat New Zealand 99-72 in the World Cup opener for both teams.

Reuben Te Rangi led the way for New Zealand with 15 points on Saturday while Jaren Jackson Jr and Austin Reaves each scored 12 for the Americans.

They US are trying to win the World Cup for the sixth time and erase the memory of finishing seventh in FIBA's biggest tournament four years ago in China.

But the Kiwis ensured it wasn't easy for the pre-tournament favourites.

Their lead was only 12 with 2:01 to go in the third before Banchero hit 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions to give the US their biggest advantage of the night and they kept control from there.

New Zealand's players performed a traditional pre-game haka and quickly took a 14-4 lead.

Eventually, though, the U.S. started figuring things out. A 12-2 run tied the game, Tyrese Haliburton's 3-pointer with 6:58 left in the half put the Americans up for good, the lead was 45-36 by the half and they wouldn't trail again.

The United States have now played New Zealand four times in senior men's competition and won them all. 

The US could secure a spot in the second round as early as Monday, when they take on Greece. New Zealand's next match is against Jordan on Monday.

Meanwhile, Spain beat Cote d'Ivoire 94-64 in Group G.

Willy Hernangomez scored 22 points while his brother Juancho had 11 points.

Spain are the No.1-ranked team and strong contenders to retain their title.

Spain face Brazil on Monday and Cote d'Ivoire will play Iran.