The Second Stage of the FIBA U20 European Championship got under way on Tuesday with Groups E and F tipping off with three games each. The full schedule of games saw six nations in each group square off on the road to Quarterfinals. After four games of the tournament so far, three teams remain perfect, with Spain, Serbia, and Turkey holding 100% records.
It is probably no coincidence that those nations finished gold, silver, and bronze in the 2014 FIBA U20 European Championship and all three will be the countries to beat this year.
France punched its ticket to the Quarterfinals with a classy 70-74 win over Israel. Les Bleus were superior for long periods of the game and passed through to the next round with an easy victory, taking the lead from the opening bucket and never looking back. Israel can still qualify, but needs to beat Italy and have the maths work out, that can only be decided after the Belgium vs. Latvia game. The French had to wait until the second half to open a double digit lead and make it comfortable, but the Israel contingent never looked in the contest really. With starting point guard Arthur Rozenfeld missing France’s roster rallied and still fed the ball to the tune of 19 assists through the game. Petr Cornelie stood out and was 100% from the floor as he led the win with 14 points, 5 rebounds, three assists, and three blocks.
Group E leaders Serbia continued its perfect run with a narrow 74-76 win over a dogged Belgium in Italy on Tuesday. The Serbs have already qualified and increased their 100% record to six games, while Belgium missed out on the chance to progress and face a do or die clash with Latvia. Serbia started slow and trailed 25-14 through the first quarter. Last year’s bronze medal country hit back in Q2 to lock the scoreboard at 34 apiece at halftime. In the third act Serbia punished sloppy Belgian handling to turnover consistent and spark an 11 point run, before holding off their opponents in the fourth. It was a tale of the benches as Serbia’s supplements added 37 points, while Belgium’s second units hit for just six points. Marko Tejic paced the win with a team-high 17 points.
Latvia overcame Italy to stay alive in the hunt for a Quarterfinal place, while Italy was eliminated from the running in the process. It was the Latvians most complete performance of the tournament so far as they raced to a stunning 82-51 win over the host nation. Italy opened the scoring, but the guests struck straight back and then put together an amazing 17-0 run in the first quarter and dictated the hardwood from there. In the opening half the winners were hot from beyond the arc, draining 5 from 8 to pace the victory. Italy in contrast were torrid from range, draining 2 from 18 attempts from downtown. Rolands Smits looked hot for Latvia again as he 17 points, including 100% shooting in the first half.
Last year’s beaten finalist Spain maintained its 100% record as the already qualified team defeated Lithuania 68-62. The Spanish will now face off against Turkey as Group F’s two unbeaten teams showdown for first place in the group on Wednesday. Lithuania can still progress with victory over Ukraine, but needs favours from other games and is unlikely to make the cut. Spain trailed 31-26 through the long break but hit back in the second half on the back of an 11-0 run in the third quarter. Alberto Martin was the key to the Spanish success, he plundered a game high 22 points, amazingly hitting 21 of those points as Spain turned the game around in the third stanza.
The other nation with a 100% record is Turkey as the defending champs went 6-0 in the tournament with a 67-75 win over Czech Republic. We will now be treated to a repeat of last year’s final in Group F as Turkey and Spain will clash to decide first place. The Czech Republic is still in pole position to reach the Quarterfinals and will ensure progression with a victory over Germany tomorrow. Turkey looked in control for the opening three quarter and was up by as much as 11 points in the third frame. However, in the closing act Czech Republic rallied but ultimately fell short. The champs were formidable at the perimeter defence and stopped Czech shooters at four triples all evening, the Czech Republic certainly tried from downtown, sending 26 attempts off the mark. Okben Olubay was in fine scoring touch in the winning effort as he topped the Turkish outfit with 24 points.
Germany kept its hopes of reaching the knock-out stage alive with a 61-52 win over Ukraine, and will now clash with Czech Republic to decide which nation progresses. Just before the end of the first half, Ukraine was in charge and on course for the win, but Andreas Obst sparked a German fightback, a 10-0 run that spanned the second and third quarters. From there the Germans extended through the third period before closing the win in Q4.