Lithuania have emerged as clear favourites for the gold medal at the ACI Trading Ltd U20 European Championship Men in Chekov.
The side, led by former Olympic gold medallist Rimas Kurtinaitis, have been nothing short of dominant in their opening 3 games of the Championship and completed another straightforward victory on Sunday, downing Czech Republic 101-57.
Lithuania's superiority over the first round foes is reflected in their average margin of victory, currently at 40 points per contest. They lead all teams in scoring at an impressive 101 clip, a full 22 points more than second-placed side Greece (79 ppg).
|Mantas Ruikis leads a balanced Lithuanian attack which has 4 players averaging more than 13 ppg|
Opponents can perhaps take some comfort in the fact that the Lithuanians are not even here with their top squad. Linas Klieza and Martynas Andriuskevicius are both in the USA with their NBA teams and were unavailable for selection.
The absence of the 217 cm Andriuskevicius has forced head coach Kurtinaitis into playing a fast paced game, with a number of agile players but no dominant inside force.
So far the tactics have paid off handsomely.
The Czech Republic found Lithuania far too much to handle and trailed by double digits after just 10 minutes.
Lithuania's win puts them into a quarter-final round group with France, Latvia and Serbia & Montenegro.
Latvia qualifed for the next stage in the competition despite today's 56-63 loss to Greece.
The Greeks, meanwhile will take on Italy, Israel and Russia in their quarter-final round group.
Italy recovered from an opening day catastrophe against Lithuania (they lost 77-109) to secure their chance at winning a medal with a victory against Belarus today.
The game was effectively for elimination as the winner would advance to the quarter-final round.
Italy completed the task comfortably, and despite a minor blip in the fourth quarter when they scored just 5 points, eased to a 64-53 win.
Marco Belinelli led Italy with 22 points, but continues to struggle with his shooting, needing 21 shots for his points (including 11 three-point attempts).