In last night’s EuroBasket 2009 additional qualifying round games, favorites Italy and Portugal fell victim to upsets to immediately throw a handy spanner in the AQR works. It was Bosnia & Herzegovina 62, Portugal 56 in the Group A game (told ya Portugal was ripe for an upset – call it The Curse of Cape Verde). In Group B, France overcame Italy 80-77 in overtime.
Meanwhile, in the BallinEurope home office in Budapest, the FIBA relegation round game between Team Hungary and Team Ukraine was on the TV. Clearly avid readers of Ball in Europe, the Magyars apparently took offense at this writer’s backhanded slap vis-a-vis the near-win against France last week and the current state of Hungarian hoops to demolish the haggard-looking Ukrainians, 91-67, before a quite pleased home crowd.
After shooting an even 50% from the floor in the first half despite going 1-for-9 beyond the arc, Hungary put on a show in the third quarter, burying seemingly from everywhere and outscoring Ukraine, 18-5.
Particularly impressive was István Németh, who stomped the Ukrainians with 21 points and some nifty passing as well.
Official Euroleague and FIBA roundups follow. Of the Eurobasket AQR games, i mean.
(Euroleague.net) – France and Bosnia & Herzegovina won their openers to get a leg up for the last ticket for EuroBasket 2009 via the Additional Qualifying Round. France edged host Italy in overtime 80-77 in Group B in Cagliari behind 20 points apiece from Valencia’s Florent Pietrus and former Le Mans star Nicolas Batum.
Pietrus dominated early for France, scoring 10 points as the visitors took a 16-6 advantage. It wasn’t until Angelo Gigli (Virtus Roma) stepped for Italy that the hosts responded inside. Gigli’s basket and foul on the offensive glass marked Italy’s first rebound and he would add a dunk and a blocked shot on Boris Diaw to get his team within six, at 21-15 after 10 minutes.
Gigli threw down another slam to keep the Italian momentum going and baskets by Marco Cusin and Stefano Mancinelli (AJ Milano) completed a 15-3 charge that put the hosts ahead, 25-24. Aymeric Jeanneau (Asvel Basket) drilled a triple to awake the French and soon a Pietrus slam had the visitors in control as the sides went to the lockers with the scoreboard showing 35-29.
France nursed its lead for much of the third quarter before Marco Belinelli caught fire, drilling a three and drawing an unsportsmanlike foul, which eventually led to Gigli’s go-ahead basket before Nando De Colo (Valencia) knotted the game at 51-51 heading into the fourth quarter.
It remained close throughout the fourth quarter and Belinelli two free throws with 33 seconds to play tied the score. France missed twice on its final possession and the game went to overtime.
The home side scored the first five points of the extra period, but France didn’t fold. Batum heated up and Diaw and Pietrus scored in a 2-10 charge that turned the game on its head. Andrea Bargnani brought Italy to within one with 30 seconds remaining, however Antoine Diot (Le Mans) was ice from the line with four perfect free throws to seal the win.
Diaw finished with 15 for the winning team. Belinelli led Italy with 26 points, Gigli tallied 13 and Bargnani scored 10.
(FIBAEurope.com) – Bosnia & Herzegovina survived a late Portugal fightback to win the opening game of their EuroBasket Additional Qualifying Round campaign, 62-56, in Povoa de Varzim.
Bosnia dominated the early going, building up a 36-22 lead by halftime and looked like comfortable winners. Team Bosnia & Herzegovina extended the lead in the third quarter, but whatever Moncho Lopez said to his players at halftime clearly had an effect, as Portugal began to compete much more effectively.
In the final quarter, Portugal piled on the pressure as they reeled off a 20-9 run that brought them right back into contention, only to fall short at the end.
Nihad Dedovic made four-of-seven (57%) from the field and went six-of-nine (67%) at the free throw line to lead the victors with 15 points.
Ratko Varda added 14 points and Ivan Opacek had 11 points.
Portugal wasted 17 points from Joao Coelho and 12 from Joao Gomes, while Carlos Andrade was held to nine points as he went 0-for-6 from three-point range.
The action continues on Saturday when Bosnia hosts Belgium and Finland visits France. In all, the six active teams will play four round robin games, at the end of which the two group winners will meet in a two-legged playoff for a spot in Group B of EuroBasket, alongside defending champion Russia, Latvia and Germany in the city of Gdansk, Poland.