Congratulations go out from BallinEurope this morning to Team Spain, winners of the FIBA U20 European Championship with an 82-70 win over Italy to cap an undefeated run through the tournament.
In so doing, notice has been served to the world that Espana has apparently produced yet another generation of ballers to someday soon act as a force throughout the world – and Real Madrid fans (not to mention forward-thinking Chicago Bulls backers) can take note that their Nikola Mirotic was named tournament MVP as well.
Official FIBA Europe writeup and highlights follow the break.
(FIBA Europe) – A unique performance for Spain bestowed them their first ever gold medal in the U20 European Championship after an 82-70 victory over Italy in the grand final on Sunday night in Bilbao, Spain.
This is the first time ever Spain won the gold medal in this age group, but the victory representing their ninth medal in total – more than any other team. A journey that started with a 49-point win over Turkey on opening night finished with a combined margin of +39 in the semifinal and title games.
Spain, the second team ever to lift the trophy in front of their fans, won two-thirds of their games by a double-digit margin and became only the second team ever to win all the games in the championship.
Italy put up a fight for the first half but couldn’t match up for 40 minutes with the Spanish machine; however, this is the best campaign for Italy since 1994, when they last won the silver medal.
Nikola Mirotic, the announced MVP of the tournament, was everywhere once again and made a huge difference in favor of his team, as he did on every night of this championship. In the final, Mirotic tallied yet another double-double, his sixth in the competition, reaching 29 points and 11 rebounds.
Spain missed their second best scorer in Joan Sastre, who got injured after one minute and didn’t return to the floor. His absence makes the double-digit win even more impressive.
Josep Franch stepped up to take over Sastre’s points and finished with a tournament high of 19 points, just in the right time, next to seven assists and five rebounds. Alejandro Barrera added 10 points.
Team Italy was led by Alessandro Gentile, who finished with only 14 points after a streak of four games with more than 20. Riccardo Moraschini tried to fill his spot and scored 17 points, that weren’t enough. Andrea De Nicolao led Italy’s last comeback attempt in the closing quarter and finished with 11 points and nine boards.
Mirotic scored the first points of the night, but Gentile was aggressive from the start and probably a bit too much while fighting with Sastre for position he injured the Spanish guard that had to leave the floor for medical treatment.
Mirotic continued to score while Riccardo Cervi was a force of Italy’s defense and Melli active on offense to reach six points, giving Italy an 11-8 lead.
Gentile with a steal and strong dunk forced Spain to take a timeout when down by five points, but saw Spain reply quickly and force a 15-15 tie with one minute to go in the first quarter. Mirotic got some rest and saw from the bench how Barrera slash to the rim with force and put Spain back on top before the first buzzer, 17-16.
Moraschini with great penetration and Filippo Baldi Rossi with five quick points put Italy back on top, yet not for long and six points in a row capped by a reverse lay-up by Mirotic forced Italy to call a timeout. Moraschini with a steal and another power dunk tied the score but Mirotic reached 12 points to keep Italy behind once more.
Jose Gil with great hustle and a big dunk was followed by Mirotic, who stole the ball and finished quickly to give Spain a 32-29 lead with a bit over four minutes to play.
Gentile forced a three pointer that went out only to witness Mirotic hitting from same distance at the other side, giving Spain a six-point lead and sending Italy to talk about it once again, before the hosts went too far. The sides then exchanged three pointers, but Spain had more fire as Mirotic set the gap on 40-32 inside the last two minutes of the half.
Achille Polonara with a huge block saved Italy from a double-digit deficit, but missed at the other end and saw Franch push it to a 42-32 game. Gentile with three hits in a row from the foul line set the half time score on 42-35, still wide open for the second half.
The Italian sharpshooter opened the second half with a three pointer but saw Albreto Jodar and Joan Tomas pay with the same bill to make it a 10-point game again at 50-40. Franch, with his familiar slash and dunk, set the house on fire but Polonara with a followup dunk kept Italy in the game, 54-46, after four minutes in the third.
Melli got in foul trouble with four, while Jose Simeon had to leave the court with a foot injury, and it seemed like trouble time for Spain but answered with five points in a row that set the gap to a new high, 59-48, and Italy quickly called a timeout. Yet that didn’t make a big difference, as Spain had already reached a 15-point lead and finished the third quarter up 68-55.
If Italy had any plans to come back, the Spanish scorer had a message to deliver and with an off dribble fallaway three-pointer, he beat the buzzer to make it a 72-55 advantage.
De Nicolao, with pressure on the ball and great plays on offense, led Italy to score nine points in a row and set the score on 72-64, but it wasn’t over yet; Melli’s three-point shot made a long trip on the rim but fell out and stopped the Italy’s momentum.
It was none other than Mirotic who broke the drought and with four points put Spain in a safe place inside the last 2:30 minutes. Melli missed another chance while Franch in another aggressive slash set the gap at 14, 78-64, which put an end to Italy’s aspirations.
Mirotic was called to the bench to earn his standing ovation as the celebrations on the floor and in the stands started.