U19 WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Spain, Serbia and Lithuania are paving the way for European teams competing at the FIBA U19 World Championship, with each navigating their way into the second round with perfect records. Spain, Serbia and Lithuania are paving the way for European teams competing at the FIBA U19 World Championship, with each navigating their way into the second round with perfect records.
|Edgar Vicedo and Spain claimed an upset of sorts on Saturday when they took down U18 European Champions Croatia|
Joining them in the second round are Croatia and Russia, the former with a 2-1 record and the latter with a 1-2 record.
The news however is not so good for tournament hosts Czech Republic, who, despite defeating Iran 60-50, finished bottom of Group B and now find themselves competing for the minor placings.
Spain have been the surprise package of the tournament to date, stunning last year's U18 European champions, Croatia, 86-76 in Saturday's Group A top-of-the-table clash.
Spain and Croatia both heavily resemble their make-ups from the U18 European Championship so the Spaniards, who finished fifth in Vilnius to claim the last European qualifying spot for the U19 World Championships, were hardly expected to cause problems for a Croatian team boasting Dario Saric.
Saric, as expected, was a key factor in the game, but perhaps more telling than his 23 points and his 14 rebounds was his 10 turnovers; whilst in addition Croatia's depth past Saric and Mislav Brzoja (22 points, nine rebounds) was exposed with only four other players picking up points, whilst for Spain five players ended in double figures and another five contributed.
Lithuania performed to expectations in Group B, doing enough to beat hosts Czech Republic (77-74) and Argentina (76-66), whilst also enjoying an 81-40 blowout win over Iran.
Alongside Spain, Serbia were the other European team to perform above expectations in the first round. Not only did they get through Group C undefeated, it was the manner in which they did so, dishing out heavy defeats to Australia (78-57), Brazil (65-50) and Senegal (80-49).
Nikola Jankovic has been a key cog in the victories, but the real talk of the Serbian team is Nikola Milutinov. Last seen in European competition at U16 level in 2010, the center hardly warranted a second look, averaging just 3.1 points and 2.4 boards a game. However the '94 born Novi Sad native is having the opposite affect this time round, leading the team with 13.7 points an outing.
Lucky to scrape into the second round, Russia are yet to live up to their potential. Having stunned USA in the 2011 edition of the championships in Latvia, there was to be no repeat this time round as the American thumped the Russians 115-47.
They were also less than inspiring in a two-point (61-59) loss to China but a 78-43 win over the Ivory Coast at least saved them an early exit.
In the second round of competition beginning Monday, Lithuania, Spain and Croatia are joined by Argentina, Canada and Iran in Group E, with each team facing the three teams they did not come up against in the first round.
Serbia and Russia are in Group F, along with USA, China, Brazil and Australia.