2015 U20 European Championship, Quarterfinals locked

2015 U20 European ChampionshipThe Quarterfinals of the 2015 U20 European Championship have been set after Groups E and F wrapped on Wednesday, allowing four more nations to book their place in the last eight. Those countries were Lithuania, Germany, Belgium, and Latvia.

Group E
Latvia and Belgium secured qualification to the next round, but it was the Latvians celebrating victory at the 2015 U20 European Championship on Wednesday. They overcame the Belgians 66-75 to qualify in third place, but Belgium also make it through as they avoided losing by 20 points. The game seemed to be heading in a different direction through halftime, with Belgium holding a 15 point lead. However, Latvia reduced it to eight points at the last split before carrying the momentum with a 9-0 run in the final act. Rolands Smits was the go to guy for Latvia again as he amassed 26 points and 5 rebounds.

Serbia and France played a game for pride as both teams had qualified and new their Group E final positions. Serbia further cemented its first place in the standings and maintained a 100% record (7 from 7) in the tournament with a 64-53 win. France has been good this summer, but the way Serbia dispatched Les Bleus suggests they are among the favourites to lift the title. The winners led throughout and turned the defensive screw on France, stopping their three point output at 1 from 11 attempts. Dejan Davidovac played strong from the bench to give Serbia a platform, the forward notched 12 points (80% from the field) and also added three boards.

Israel needed Belgium to lose by 20 points or more to progress, but also needed to beat tournament hosts Italy, something they failed to do. The Azzurri used a strong first half to take the lead and never looked back on the way to a 75-64 win. Israel lost the ball 15 times in the opening twenty minutes and 20 overall, something the Italians punished with 13 points from turnover ball in the first half alone. Simone Fontecchio had an impressive game at both ends of the hardwood, providing a defensive base and leading the offence with 17 points for Italy.

Group F
Turkey and Spain entered their contest already holding berths in the Quarterfinals of the 2015 U20 European Championship, but there was still plenty to play for. Firstly the nations were fighting for first place in Group F, while both were also protecting 100% unbeaten records. By the end of regulation it was the Spanish still with that unblemished run after downing the Turks 48-57. A low scoring affair saw Turkey take a narrow 18-16 lead at the start of the second, sparking a miserly streak from Spain. The Spanish defence tightened and stopped Turkey at 48 points for the game, a great base to build a win off. Turkey’s field stats (14% from triples and 36.6% from two points) tell their own story, while Ilimane Diop was the rock at the back for Spain with 14 rebounds.

The clash between Czech Republic and Germany would decide the final two places of Group F, with Germany’s 74-71 win not enough to send them through. The Germans needed a nine point win, but failure to get it meant the Czechs moved through, as did the Lithuanians, who had earlier beaten Ukraine. It was a very tight game but with just 3:02 on the clock Germany were the required points in front, leading 73-62 and heading to the next round. The Czech Republic rallied from the bench and Matej Svoboda hit from beyond the arc to reduce the deficit before breaking German hearts by holding them to a single point for the rest of the game.

Before Germany won, Lithuania had defeated Ukraine 70-57, doing all it could to reach the Quarterfinals. The players needed to sweat on the Czech Republic squandering a qualification lead, but eventually Lithuania progressed. They had controlled Ukraine for large passages of the game, especially during a classy second half which went 42-28 in Lithuania’s favour. The winners were monstrous off the glass, pulling in 56 rebounds compared to 32 from the opposition, actually slipping one short of Ukraine’s rebound record of 57.

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