Where did that come from? Ukraine pulled off the shock of the second round so far while France and Lithuania rolled to easy victories in Group E.
Ukraine took a one point lead into half-time against Serbia but with issues on the boards, the upset looked far from assured. Then along came a 14-2 run to give the underdogs a lead they would never surrender. Any fears that Pooh Jeter was in a hole after being shut down by Latvia were put to rest in a commanding performance, with 20 points and 4 assists. Serbia did a lot of things right but their free throw shooting was ugly, going 12 of 24, which took away from their success at picking up offensive rebounds. It took something remarkable for Ukraine to pull out this 82-75 win but by doing so they still have a shot at making the quarter finals.
The same can’t be said for Belgium who ran into Jonas Valanciunas in a bad mood. Hurting him in the first quarter turned out to be a terrible idea as the Toronto Raptor took over on the inside to leave Lithuania well in front at half time. Mindaugas Kuzminskas also contributed well from the bench as Lithuania’s size proved too much for the Belgians. While a rout through three quarters, the Belgians salvaged some pride with a spirited final frame. The result was never in doubt but a 32-17 run in the final frame meant the score was respectable. Lithuania’s 86-67 win should be enough for them to make the next stage but anything could happen on Sunday.
Finally a big hi to Nicolas Batum. After disappearing against Lithuania the Portland Trail Blazer made his presence felt early and often in France’s rout of Latvia. The first half was all about France’s inside play as they pounded it, kept pounding it, and pounding some more. With just 4 of their 34 shots coming from beyond the arc, there was no mistaking France’s intent from the off. Latvia needed to match their ridiculous success from long-range that they had against Ukraine. That was always going to be a tall order but they rallied well in the second half to keep the game close. Eventually Batum’s 19 point 10 rebound and 6 assist performance coupled with a big night for Alexis Ajinca, 25 points 5 boards 3 blocks, was enough to get France over the line. This game also marked the first century of the tournament as France were forced to keep pushing hard on offence in the second half. A 102-91 win moves France to 3-1 with a game to go. Latvia know a win over Belgium should still be enough to make the quarter finals.
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