Eurobasket 2013: Ukrainians grab final QF spot

EuroBasket 2013

It’s been a roller coaster ride for the Ukrainians at EuroBasket 2013. They opened Round 1 with three straight wins, lost a tough contest to France and closed the preliminary round with a big win over Great Britain. Their first game in the second round was a 34-point beating at the hands of Latvia, they turned in a big win against eventual Group E titlist Serbia (their only loss in the second round), and then wrapped up Round 2 with a loss to Lithuania, who finished second in Group E. For the Ukrainians, moving on to the EuroBasket 2013 quarterfinals marks the best result for their senior mens basketball program since it’s inception in 1992.

Serbia takes the Group E with a 4-1 record, a record they share with Lithuania, who finishes second in the group due to their loss to Serbia in Round 1. France finished Round 2 with a 3-2 record so takes the third spot.

In the Quarterfinals Serbia will play the fourth place Group F team on Wednesday, Lithuania will match up on Wednesday with the Num 3 team from Group F, France will take on the second place club from the group on Thursday and the top team in Group F will tip off with Ukraine on Thursday.

Group E
Belgium – Latvia, 60:56
Coming into Sunday’s contest with Belgium, the Latvians knew that they needed a win and some help from Lithuania against Ukraine and they had the final spot in the quarterfinals from Group E since they would win a tie-breaker with the Ukrainians based on their 85:51 win earlier in the second round. Belgium was 0-4 and Lithuania was at the top of the group and playing very well, so the odds were definitely stacked in Latvia’s favor. The thing is in a big basketball game, teams really can’t expect to win shooting 29.4% (20 of 68) from the floor, especially when you fire up 29 shots from behind the arc and only connect on five of them. At some point the team has to realize that the long-ball isn’t the best strategy.

Even with their dismal shooting performance, the Latvians had more then ample opportunity to win the contest, but a series of huge playes on both ends of the court at the end of the game gave the Belgians their first win of the second round.

Belgium set the tone early with a 9:2 run to open the contest. Latvia countered with seven straight to knot the score at 9, eventually coming out of the first frame with a slim one-point lead, 15:14, after Armands Skele connected on a layup with two seconds to play to give Lativa their first lead of the contest.

Mareks Mejeris opened scoring in the second frame with a triple to push Latvia up four, 18:14, but Belgium countered with a 10:0 run to grab a 24:18 lead with 5:29 to play in the half. Latvia connected on the final five of the half to knot the score at 32 at the break.

With the score tied at 36, Wen Mukubu dropped a lay-up and connected on the single to complete a three-point play, then sank a follow-up lay-up to give Belgium five unanswered and a 41:36 lead with just under four minutes to play in the third. Mukubu closed out the scoring in the quarter with just under a minute left when he knocked down a triple to give Belgium a 46:42 advantage heading into the final 10.

Skele cut the lead in half with a lay-up shortly after the fourth opened, followed by a pair of singles from Darius Bertans that tied the score at 46, but the Belgians ran off nine unanswered to build a 55:46 advantage with 6:44 to play. Rolands Freimanis dropped in a lay-up and a dunk, surrounding a Rihards Kuksiks triple, that cut the gab to a point, 57:56 with 1:24 on the clock. Freimanis couldn’t complete his end of an alley-oop that would have given Latvia a lead with 51 seconds to play, but they got the ball back on a Axel Hervelle turnover. Janis Blums had a jumper blocked by Sacha Massot, who came up with a huge dunk on the other end to put Belgium up three, 59:56 with eight seconds left. Bertans got an open three pointer, but came up empty, and Mukubu was fouled as he pulled in the rebound with two seconds left. He split the pair of free throws to ice the game with a four-point margin, 60:56, denying Latvia the spot in the quarters, even though they got the help they needed from Lithuania against Ukraine.

Massot was game-high for Belgium with 14, Makubu added 13 and Hervelle contributed 10. Freimanis turned in a 10P/11R double-double for Lavtia.

Serbia vs. France, 77:65
Defense was the key for the Serbian squad as they successfully limited France’s offense. They didn’t allow a single Frenchman to go off, keeping all of their key scorers limited to only a dozen points at best. They even held Tony Parker to 10 points, which was a laudable feat to say the least. On the other end of the floor, the Serbians shot well, converting on 53.5% of their 2-point field goal attempts. Truly, the Serbian squad came out inspired and it reflected in the basketball they delivered.

I think that my team absolutely deserved this victory. We won all quarters. We played for the first time without Markovic. I didn’t want to say let’s win for him, but I did say, ‘Let’s go fight like Markovic.’ Our victory is very pure. For our young players this gives them more confidence.
–Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic

This was a key win for Serbia, that in fact, could lead to a momentum-building snowball effect on the young team’s confidence. The team still leaned on their veteran big man, Nenad Krstic, who became the anchor of their inside scoring.  Krstic finished the contest with 19 points, four rebounds and four assists. Nemanja Nedovic was a fine complement to Nenad, as he supplied the outside component of their inside-outside attack. He was able to knock down five of his eight shots from deep to end up with 17 points and three rebounds for the game. Bogdan Bogdanovic chipped in 14 markers and was the third and final Serbian to hit double figures in scoring for match.

France had four players to reach 12 points. They were Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, Alexis Ajinca and Nando de Colo. Tony Parker finished with 10.

Ukraine vs. Lithuania, 63:70

EuroBasket 2013

Even with Serbia taking the lead in Group E, the Lithuanian National Team are hot on their heels. Their consistent play thoughout majority of the tournament so far, and their ability to maximize their size advantage in match-ups has allowed them to remain a force to be reckoned with in the competition.

Ukraine held tough and forced Lithuania to make key plays in order to grind out the win. The game was tight for the first three quarters. Lithuania managed just a two-point lead, 48-46, at the end of Q3. Lithuania’s three-point shots started to fall as Kleiza, Delininkaitis and Maciulis all found their rhythm. Kleiza and Donatas Montiejunas cleaned up at the free-throw line in the dying seconds of the game to secure the victory.

Some were saying that Ukraine were not strong enough, are not playing interesting basketball but as we can see some teams that were not strong enough some years ago have now improved a lot and one of those teams is Ukraine. They are playing really good basketball and were able to beat a team like Serbia. So big respect to Ukraine who made it a really tough game for us.
–Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlauska

Lithuania’s Linas Kleiza proved to be the hero his team needed at this critical game. He finished the night with 15 points, five rebounds and two steals. He also knocked down a couple of treys for good measure. Donatas Montiejunas was a big lift off their bench and he added 10 points of his own.

Ukraine’s Sergii Gladyr managed to tally 18 points, thanks to his solid three-point shooting. He knocked down five of his eleven shots from beyond the arc. Pooh Jeter, their naturalized American point guard, added 10 points and took care of quarterbacking their offense with eight assists.

It was a good game for us, I think we did a good job on defense against a great team. We are in the quarter-finals and I think we showed today that we deserve it. We didn’t expect that we would go so far, but we go out there every night and play as hard as we can. I think it’s happened because we are young and we are ambitious.
— Sergii Gladyr

EuroBasket Group E

Round 2 Match List[matches league_id=36 group=E template=summary dateformat=”M. j, Y”]

Standings[standings league_id=36 group=E show_website=false template=nolink]

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