With game threes in the book, the qualifying round of the FIBA U20 European Championship Men heads into the home stretch. Yesterday’s games had hometown Greece overcoming Russia in a real nail-biter, 73-71; Spain held off a frenzied Italian comeback to win 62-60; Croatia overcame Montenegro, 76-70; and Turkey destroyed Ukraine by a frankly unbelievable score.
The qualifying groups now resemble the proverbial “study in contrasts.” Group E is clearly defined by undefeated alpha dogs Spain and France, while its win puts Team Greece at a strong no. 3 and nicely separates Russia (1-2 with France the opposition today) from the cream of the Group E crop. At 0-3, Latvia and Italy are now playing out the string.
Group F still appears totally up for grabs and anyone could advance to the knockout phase. Croatia, Lithuania and Ukraine all sit atop the table at 2-1. However, Team Lithuania has actually been outscored on the way to this winning record, have outscored opponents by a mere eight in two wins; additionally, Lithuania plays both Croatia and Ukraine in their remaining schedule. Meanwhile, how seriously can Ukraine be taken after that demolishment at Team Turkey’s hands? We’ll see how they bounce back…
In beating Ukraine, Turkey demonstrated that Group F’s bottom three aren’t taking matters lying down. Montenegro may be outclassed here, but Serbia’s convincing win over Lithuania keeps them well alive with upcoming games against Turkey and Montenegro both well winnable. Assuming Croatia shows up for the final two games, this team seems to be the only shoo-in to advance to the tournament. FIBA roundups of yesterday’s games follow.
(FIBA Europe) – Nikos Pappas hit a jumper off the glass with 0.6 seconds left to give hosts Greece a thrilling 73-71 victory over Russia in qualifying round Group E of the U20 European Championship.
Georgios Bogris led five Greek players in double figures with 17 points while Leonidas Kaselakis had 14 points, five rebounds and five assists and Pappas scored 13 points for Kostas Missas’ Team Greece, who improved to 2-1 in the group.
Kostas Papanikolaou hit for 11 points and Charalampos Giannopoulos chipped in 10 points in the winning effort. For Russia, Semen Antonov led all scorers with 22 points and 10 rebounds while Maxim Zakharov scored 12 points and Vladimir Ivlev had 10 points and nine rebounds. The defeat dropped Team Russia to 1-2 in the group.
Alexander Vasin’s Russians pulled ahead early 8-2. But Greece used the home crowd to go on an 11-3 run to take the lead 17-16. And the Greeks were ahead 23-22 after one period.
Trailing 27-25, Antonov and Vladimir Filippov each knocked down long balls during an 11-2 spurt to push Russia in front 36-29. But the lead was just 36-34 at the break.
The Russians did not have an answer for Bogris in the third quarter as he scored 11 points. He helped Greece pull ahead 50-43 midway through the third period. But Russia regained the lead with another 11-2 run to make it 54-52. Three Greek free throws knotted the game before Giannopoulos nailed back-to-back three-balls for a 60-54 cushion after three periods.
Antonov started the fourth quarter with two treys and a three-point play to give Russia a 66-65 lead. Two Kaselakis baskets put Greece ahead 69-66. But Russia would even the game 71-71 on Viacheslav Zaytsev’s foul shots with 52 seconds remaining.
Papanikolaou missed two free throws with 37 seconds left but Zaytsev was off on his jumper with 12 seconds to play, setting up Pappas’ heroics. And with 0.6 seconds left, Russia’s inbounds pass went out of bounds, securing Greece the victory.
Spain barely held on to a nine-point lead in the final minute to remain undefeated at the U20 European Championship with a 62-60 victory over Italy.
Sergio De La Fuente scored 20 points and Pere Tomas and Jose Marco combined for three free throws in the final 9.6 seconds to preserve the win, which improved Spain’s record to 3-0 in Group E of the qualifying round.
Tomas collected 11 points and 11 rebounds and Mamadou Samb Mbaye scored 12 points for Gustavo Aranzana’s team, which was still playing without star center Pablo Aguilar, who has a tender right ankle.
Italy dropped to 0-3 in the group even though Tommaso Raspino had 13 points and nine rebounds and Paolo Rotondo scored 12 points.
…De La Fuente’s three-ball to start the fourth period made the score 53-42. And Spain kept Italy at bay; the advantage was 59-50 when Raspino hit two foul shots to cut it to seven points.
The Italians then scored six points on a single possession as Rotondo’s second foul shot was rebounded as well as Raspino’s three-ball, which Rotondo eventually converted with a layup and was fouled. He missed the free throw but it too was rebounded and Roberto Rullo nailed a three-pointer with 27 seconds left to make it 59-58.
Tomas hit two foul shots with 9.6 seconds left and then Rullo hit two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining. But Italy could not foul Marco until 0.8 seconds left, whereupon he made one foul shot and deliberately missed the second while time ran out.
Karlo Vragovic made four free throws in the final 24 seconds to give Croatia a 76-70 victory in Group F of the U20 European Championship.
Vragovic scored 18 points for Croatia, who improved to 2-1 in Group F of the qualifying round while Bojan Bogdanovic added 13 points, Matej Karlovic had 12 points and Miro Bilan chipped in 11 points.
Croatia star Mario Delas finally played his first game of the tournament, scoring all eight of his points in the final 11 minutes of play after nursing an injury from the FIBA U19 World Championship.
Sead Sehovic paced Montenegro with 19 points, six rebounds and five assists while Nikola Djokovic scored 17 points and Nikola Vucevic collected 16 points, four rebounds and five blocks…
Five players scored in double figures as Turkey demolished Ukraine 93-44 to register their first victory in the qualifying round Group F of the U20 European Championship.
Every Turkish player had at least four points with Erol Cinko leading the way with 13 points. Ibrahim Yildirim and Can Ozcan both hit for 11 points while Melih Mahmutoglu and Ilkan Karaman each added 10 points for Turkey, who improved to 1-2.
Ukraine fell to 2-1 with Ruslan Otverchenko the leading scorer with seven points. Volodymyr Polyakh’s team shot just 26 percent for the game…