Pau Ribas scored 20 points in leading Spain to a convincing 88-69 victory over Croatia in the opening match of Group C of the U20 European Championship Men in Nova Gorica on Friday.
The DKV Joventut Badalona guard also added three rebounds, four assists and four steals as Spain shot 51% from the floor and forced Croatia into 18 turnovers.
Sergio Llull chipped in 13 points and five assists for Juan Antonio Orenga's team, Marc Fernandez had 13 points and Javier Beiran Amigo scored 10 points while Albert Teruel collected 10 rebounds.
Croatian big man Ante Tomic did all he could against the aggressive Spanish unit, scoring 18 points and grabbing nine rebounds. But Franko Filipovic was the only other player in double figures with 10 points.
"This win is very important for us because we only had a short time to get this team together and prepare for this tournament. We have a team with a lot of talent but not a lot of confidence, so today's game was good because now we think we can beat anyone and fight for a win in any game," said Orenga.
The first game of the tournament matched up two teams some believed to be contenders for the crown. But Croatia were only able to keep up with the Iberian Express for the first 16 minutes.
Leading 18-15 after the first period and ahead 27-22 with 4:06 remaining in the second, Orenga's Spain turned up their defence and rolled offensively with a 13-2 run to pull ahead 40-24 at half-time.
Things did not improve much for Goran Cantas's Croatians in the third.
Xavier Rey and Ribas combined for 11 points in Spain's 17-6 start to the second half to open a 27-point lead, 57-30.
Tempers got out of hand temporarily with 2:51 to play in the third as Alfonso Sanchez was kicked out of the game after a minor altercation with Tomic. Filip Vukicevic scored eight straight points for Croatia to keep Spain at bay 65-42 going into the fourth.
Croatia twice cut the deficit to 17 points with seven minutes left - 69-52 - but Spain re-claimed their biggest lead of 27 points - 81-54 - after back-to-back break-away baskets.
In the group's second game, Omri Casspi scored 35 points in just 20 minutes of action in Israel's comfortable 95-65 victory against FYR of Macedonia.
|Omri Casspi led Israel with 35 points|
Israel were never threatened after opening the game with the first 11 points. Casspi scored 15 points in the first quarter, which Gino Yaakov's team led 31-11.
The Hapoel Galil Elyon wing player had scored 28 points by the time Israel went into the locker-room 57-30 ahead. The Israelis upped their lead to 39 points in the second half as they never let FYROM into the game.
Eleven Israeli players scored with Yogev Ohayon adding 12 points and Noam Matalon 10. Israel out-rebounded FYROM 39-28.
Nikola Karakolev paced FYROM with 18 points and Aleksandar Kostoski had 11 points.
FYROM will play Spain on Saturday and Israel play against Croatia.