Latvia got Group A underway today with hard fought win against Italy in a tight and entertaining encounter, with both sides attacking hard and throwing up plenty of shots.
Latvian point guard Janis Kaufmanis and power forward Roberts Mednis led their side to the win with 15 and 18 points respectively.
However it was the Italians, playing in front of some vocal support, who got their noses in front early on with 44 shots in the first half (38 of them from inside the arc).
Despite this the Italian side only closed the half with a 6 point lead (45-39), as the Latvians hit 73.9% of their two point shots and 71.4% from beyond the arc, with Roberts Mednis hitting every field-goal (five inside and one for three-points).
The second half continued in the same way, with Italy taking plenty of shots but Latvia still gaining ground.
Kaufmanis had even the Italian fans applauding his impressive reverse lay-up which brought the contest to within a point at 46-44 with 7:20 on the clock in the third.
He followed with a huge shot from downtown to put the Latvians 52-50 ahead and have the crowd on their feet again.
A partial third quarter score of 14-22 had the teams within a few points of each other, and it stayed that way for the rest of the game as the lead changed hands 13 times with Latvia finally coming out on top.
The other game in Group A saw last year’s champions France start the defence of their crown by running out a 64-36 winner over Estonia.
France took the lead in the opening seconds of the game and never let it go, gradually extending their advantage throughout the contest until the 28 point finishing lead.
Phillipe Ory’s side were too physically powerful for the Balkan men, pulling down 40 offensive rebounds and forcing the Estonians into making a number of silly defensive fouls which gifted 16 free shots to the French, 10 of which were converted.
The highest scorer for the winners on the night, Frens Johwe Casseus, only managed to notch up nine points but was followed closely by four other teammates who all managed eight a piece.
After the game Ory said that despite the score this was “a serious game” for the French, and that the key to the victory lay in their “good defence and the fact that we only tried to run on offence”.