Semi-Final Saturday Preview

08 August 2008

The two semi-finals will catch most of the attention in the upcoming Saturday of the competition. Spain and Lithuania will be on one side, Turkey and Serbia on the other.

Anything can happen so get ready.

Game of the day: Lithuania - Spain

This could turn out to be the more interesting and close match in the semis. Both teams have displayed so far enormous amounts of heart and fighting spirit, and it showed the most in the last game, where they needed to make a fourth quarter comeback to earn the ticket. Lithuania is scoring more than any other team here with 86.2 ppg. Spain holds one of the best defenses here allowing just a little over 70 ppg. Every possession will count. Be sure no side will give up until the last buzzer. Gecevicius, Motiejunas and Janavicius will take on Claver, Colom and Thomas. Stay close and tuned. This one will be fascinating.

Match-up of the day: Milan Macvan (Serbia) - Baris Hersek (Turkey)

Two of the best power forwards in the competition go head to head. Two very versatile power forwards who have a lot to do with the fact their teams made it so far. Hersek is taller and more athletic. Macvan is wider and stronger. Both of them scored in every game but one in double-digits. Both can really hit from long range but find difficulties in that aspect here in Riga. Keep a close eye on this duo. If one of them will eliminate the other, his team will earn a big advantage.

Player to Follow: Azizcan Ozdemir (Turkey)

Turkey, the team with the best defense here so far, will have to stop Serbia's big guy, Miroslav Raduljica (210cm), who's one of the top five scorers here with 19ppg, if they want to win. The only problem is that Turkey is playing most of the time without a center, but with two power forwards, with the 202cm Ozdemir as the center. So far in the competition he was the added value of his team, but if he manages to stop Raduljica and bring Turkey to the finals, he deserves a statue and a square named after him in his home town Izmir.

Yesterday's line-up:

Point Guard: Zoran Dragic (Slovenia)

Far from the main stage, in the 13-16 classification games, Zoran Dragic, brother of Goran, saved Slovenia from a very unpleasant situation. His team upset Georgia 91-82 but only after overtime. Dragic carried his team on his back and finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, six assists and four steals - all were team highs - on the way to the win. Dragic owes a lot to team-mate Jakub Vink who didn't play much in the competition but made the clutch moves for his team down the stretch to save the win.

Shooting Guard: Marc Rubio (Spain)

Not many people projected Spain to be down by 18 against Russia, and some were ready to crown the Spanish team, once again, as one that fail to win the big games. But this seems to be the year of Spain, in many other sports, and so started a crazy 24-2 run that allowed Spain to take the win. The main personality behind this was Marc Rubio, who's probably the biggest fighter on the Spanish team. The Spanish bull also led his team in points with 18 and rebounds with seven - his tournament highs.  

Small Forward: Mladen Jeremic (Serbia)

When Serbia won the U19 gold medal at the World Championship last year, Mladen Jeremic had a great tournament and was one of the main reasons for the first spot. Here he didn't show his great potential yet, until the crucial game against the hosts. Serbia had to win to grab the ticket to the semis and Jeremic exploded with 21 points behind five three pointers and a total of 70% from the field in addition to three assists.

Power Forward: Baris Hersek (Turkey)

Turkey needed the win over Croatia to secure the spot in the semis and Hersek delivered. He tied his tournament high with 19 points, he set his new tournament high with 13 rebounds, including big two in the last plays, to combine his first double-double. When Turkey took off in the third he was showing his presence and skills.

Center: Donatas Motiejunas (Lithuania)

He joined his team only in the Qualifying Round straight from the U18 Championship, where he won a silver medal. After two "warm up" games he exploded in the win-or-die game of Lithuania against Italy with his best performance so far. 17 points, eight rebounds and two blocks. When Lithuania wrote their decisive 11-0 run he contributed four points and three rebounds.

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