2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers: Georgia, Poland earn shock wins

Thad McFadden scored 33 points and Giorgi Shermadini poured in 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead Georgia to a 94-90 Group E upset win over Serbia in 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers on Sunday in Belgrade.

Indeed, it’s the first year of a four-year cycle after the 2020 FIBA World Cup and rosters aren’t stacked with the same mix of players that competed in China last summer. What’s more, the latest world rankings, which were released in September, listed Georgia at No. 36 and Serbia at No. 6.

After the game, team captain Shermadini declared, “We had a great game, especially the second half. We know Serbia is one of the best. We respect them so much and the last moment we played much better, and we scored the basket we needed.”

He added: “…For sure, our country, our Georgia, was watching this game, and, for sure, they are so proud of our victory today.”

In another 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers upset on Sunday, Poland, ranked 13th prevailed 80-69 over reigning world champion and No. 2-ranked Spain in Zaragoza.

Georgia’s Thad McFadden in action against Serbia on Feb. 23.

McFadden shines for Georgia

The underdogs secured the win at the free-throw line, canning 27 of 29 attempts. McFadden, a Fairmont (West Virginia) State product, sank 11 of 11, and also dished out seven assists. He had 23 points by the end of the third quarter.

Also for Georgia, power forward Beqa Burjanadze chipped in with 11 points, while Rati Andronikashvili had eight.

Georgia improved to 2-0 in 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers, which features 32 teams in eight groups. Serbia slipped to 1-1.

Disappointment for Serbia supporters

Sunday marked former Phoenix Suns bench boss Igor Kokoskov’s home debut as Serbia coach.

Guard Aleksa Avramovic paced Serbia with 27 points and Ognjen Jaramaz finished with 22.

Key sequence

Shermadini scored the go-ahead basket late in the game to put Georgia ahead 89-88. Moments later, McFadden drilled a clutch 3-pointer to make it 92-90. He then closed out the game with two foul shots as Georgia collected its second win in 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers.

Poland outplays Spain

In Sunday’s other big upset, Spain led 19-15 after the opening quarter. Then over the middle two periods Poland coach Mike Taylor’s squad outscored the hosts 50-36 to seize control of the game, the teams’ second in the ongoing 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers .

Former Western Kentucky University guard A.J. Slaughter had a team-best 26 points for Poland. Aaron Cel followed with 17 points, Michal Sokolowski contributed 13.

For Spain, playing without FIBA World Cup standouts like Marc Gasol and Ricky Rubio, Daniel Diez put 16 points on the board and big man Sebastian Saiz added 15 for coach Sergio Scariolo’s club.

Spain vs. Poland: post-game reactions

Spain forward Javier Beiran acknowledged that Poland outplayed his team.

“I think we started with a lot of energy playing good, sharing the ball,” Beiran told a news conference. “But then at the end of the second quarter and in the last two quarters, they put the level a little bit harder. We had a lot of turnovers, and then when we were 10, 15 points down we tried to fix it, and it was hard. So congratulations for Poland for a good game.”

Scariolo said, “I have absolutely no complaint and no regrets about the effort of our players. They really gave their 100 percent. I believe that we played a very good first half, considering that the talent level, the physicality of the teams which were on the floor.

The coach added: “We lost a little bit of momentum at the end of the second quarter, and then we struggled a little bit in the second half…”

Poland guard Lukasz Koszarek, who appeared in his 200th game with the nation team on Sunday, said his team was motivated to elevate its play after a 75-71 home loss to Israel in its last Group A contest on Thursday.

“After losing to Israel in the first round, we want to show here that this team has character and has pride, and exactly we did what we wanted to do,” Koszarek commented after the 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers match.

By all accounts, Poland coach Mike Taylor was pleased with his team’s performance.

“I’m so proud of our team and the way we competed. It was a complete team effort, whether guys played a big role or a small role,” Taylor stated.

Santi Yusta update

Spain’s Santi Yusta suffered an ACL tear in his left knee in the 2021 FIBA EuroBasket Qualifiers.

Before the injury, the 22-year-old Iberostar Tenerife player had contributed six points, two rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes of court time.

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