Day Six Could Be A Wild One

07 August 2008

While in Group E things are more or less known and the two semis qualifiers will come from Turkey, Lithuania and Italy in the parallel group things are much more complicated.

In theory, and it won't take shocking results, we could have a five teams tie at the end of the day. Montenegro, Serbia, Spain, France and Latvia all still fight for the top two spots entering the last day of the Qualifying Round.

Game of the day: Lithuania  - Italy

Since every game in Group F will decide and a must-follow in any case, let's focus on Group E where Italy and Lithuania go head-to-head. One of them, if not both will be in the semi's. Italy stands at 4-0 while Lithuania is a game behind after the loss to Turkey yesterday. The Turks will take on Croatia in the first game of the day. In case of a win they are in, and then the stage  is clear for a battle between Lithuania - a team who believed to be semi-finals material coming here- and Italy a team who was a minute shy from the 13-16 classification games but managed to recover and now is the only undefeated team in the group. Lithuania must win by four points or more to make it. Italy will settle for a three point loss. This one is worth a close look.

Match-up of the day: Vladimir Dasic (Montenegro) vs. Kim Tillie (France)

With a win Montenegro will advance, while France need to win and by as big a margin as possible to keep their hope alive. The match-up that could decide this game will be between the two power-forwards. Dasic, and this is no secret, is one of the top three players here so far. Tillie isn't even close, yet, to have the same offensive tools, but on the defensive end he can do a big job. The French forward has probably the best leaping ability in the competition, long arms and quick legs. If he pulls a good defensive job on Dasic it can make things a lot easier for France.

Player to follow: Dairis Bertans (Latvia)

The closing game of this round will feature Latvia taking on Serbia. The Serbs need a win to secure their spot in the semis, while Latvia, according to previous results in the day, might qualify to the top two spots with a win. For that they'll need local star Bertans to be in top shape. Yesterday he had his tournament low with nine points, but tonight he must produce another star performance to overcome a great Serbian team.

Yesterday's line-up:

Only three teams send representatives to yesterday's line-up with Serbia and Turkey taking two spots and Spain holds the fifth. These guys stepped up for their teams in a crucial game day, and moved them closer to the semi-finals. Today they'll need to finish the job.

Point Guard-Joaquin Colom: One of the players who have made a big progress since the U18 tournament two years ago is the Spanish point guard Colom. A smart quick playmaker, which can score but mostly focus on assisting his team-mates. His 19 points and 12 assists double-double against France, in the 92-72 win last night, tell the story of a great performance. With him in top shape, Spain can dream of a medal.

Shooter Guard-Dogus Balbay: He's much more of a point guard than a shooting one, but the performance he had against Lithuania is worth a spot here. He was the guy behind Turkey's come back to the game, he was the floor general, he made his team-mates better and he was a crucial part in the win. His steal with 50 seconds on the clock made a difference that could mean Turkey is in the semis. After three passive games in a row he showed how active he can be on the court with 20 points in great accuracy, seven assists, five rebounds and four steals.

Small Forward-Marko KeseljSerbia is presenting another tall, long, athletic and skilled forward in the form on Marko Keselj. The 204cm talent kept his best performance for the most important game so far, and was one of the two main reasons Montenegro lost for the first time. 23 points, nine rebounds, just a single turnover with 50% from the field and just one miss from the line. Be sure Keselj will be someone to stand on the main stage of Europe in a few years. His four perfect hits from the line in the final minute, which helped decide the game, showed he also has the mental strength to handle big scenes.

Power Forward-Azizcar Ozdemir: He didn't have the most impressive stats line, and it's possible other power forwards played equally good or a little bit better, but the versatility and winning mentality of Azizcar got him a spot here. 17 points, five rebounds and five assists with no turnovers against Lithuania were just the title. Here's the content. Coach Ene sent him in with 5:45 to play in the game, with Turkey down by two after chasing Lithuania the whole game. In the next 3:45 minutes he scored all of Turkey's next eight points, grabbed two rebounds and by now it was a four point game in favor of his team.

Center-Miroslav Raduljica: Another performance for the Serbian big guy here, as his dominance leaves small room for changes. Once again a double-double, this time 25 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks, with a little less than 70% from the field kept Serbia alive in the race to the semis as Montenegro lost for the first time. Raduljica scored 23 points already after three quarters, 11 of them in the third, when Serbia climbed to a double-digit margin.

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