After arriving in Kaunas in the evening of Thursday, the day started early with a Classification game at 9 o’clock in the morning. That was the beginning of a long day with 6 games ahead.
There is not much to say about the game between France and South Korea. The French ran away right from the start and took an early 30 point lead in the second quarter. The second half did not give us any difference as France easily dominated and cruised to an uncontested victory.
The second game of the day was a lot more interesting as both teams put on a hard fight. Egypt ran away in the first quarter with Moataz Hosny rejecting 5 shots and Walid Aly driving hard to the basket. Egypt was still up at half but it was Edvinas Seskus who brought Lithuania back and gave them the lead in the third quarter. But Egypt did not give up and tired a late comeback in the fourth quarter where they could reduce the gap to 4 points with 3 minutes on the clock. Lithuania was under pressure and Egypt used this to steal the ball and bring the score to 66-65. But the Greens could hold this minimal advantage until the final buzzer and will play against France on Saturday for the 9th place.
Spain – China 64-57
The first quarter final of the day saw Spain play against China. For the Spanish team, that had to play without their second best scorer Agusti Sans who was suspended, the game did not start well as China took an early lead behind the drives of the PG Zhao Ji Wei. The Asian team lead after the first ten minutes with three points when Zhou Qi scored 4 points in a row using the pause of Ilimane Diop. But the Spanish big guy came back to the court immediately and scored an important basket. However, Zhou was not in the game and Han De Long scored some nice jump shots to bring the lead to 7 points. The tall Chinese was now on fire and scored two more baskets to give China a double-digit lead. Jose Nogues reduced the difference with two nice plays in the post and Spain was back in the game. Their zone defense put Zhou in difficult situations but the Asians found some solutions to be up by five points at halftime.
China started better into the second half and brought the gap back to 9 points. But Diop was not happy with this situation and showed some good scores from the low post. Spain changed back to zone defense and the Chinese were again having problems which helped the European team to cut the lead. Alberto Abalde shot the three pointer that tied the game and Spain was in the lead for the first time behind Diop’s dominance in the paint. The game was now going on with big plays on both sides as the teams traded baskets and no one being able to move ahead. Spain nevertheless was up by 2 points before the last ten minutes. But China came back strong in the beginning of the last quarter and scored 5 points in a row when Diop was on the bench. But Spain stayed in the game with their shooters continuing to make some three pointers. Alberto Martin was taking over now with the three-pointer and the fast break points while the Spanish defense closed Zhou in the paint. It was the right moment for Martin to step up as Spain ran away to 59-52 with less than 2 minutes on the clock. Diop finished the job from the free-throw line and Spain could enjoy their qualification for the semi-finals with this tough win.
MVP: Ilimane Diop 26pts (10/21 FGs – 6/6 FTs), 11 rebs, 3blks
USA – Canada 113-59
The game was right from the start on a different athletic level than everything we have seen before in the tournament. The American team run the fast break like crazy pushing the ball up the court while Canada tried their best to not get beaten up in the beginning. However, the game looked already decided after the first quarter, as Canada trailed by nearly ten points. In the second quarter, there was not much difference as USA scored easy baskets on the fast break. With Justin Jackson coming to the court for Canada, they started to match the US power as the 1997 born scored a couple of nice baskets. But this did not last very long as Tyus Jones drove the American offense to a twenty point lead while on defense, Team USA could practice a bit of zone.
USA did not want to get into trouble in the second half and increased their lead to nearly thirty points quite quickly. Canada did not really know what to do and the game was decided early on. USA continued with their high intensity and three minutes before thee end, they reached the 100 points. They advanced to the semi-final where they will meet Spain.
MVP: Tyus Jones 22pts (9/12 FGs), 3rebs, 6asts, 2stl
Australia – Argentina 78-59
Argentina started better into the game driven by their short PG Alvaro Merlo. On the Australian side, Dante Exum showed some good stuff in the first minutes of the game so that both teams were close. Gabriel Deck showed his moves but the Aussies stayed in the game with their aggressiveness. After the first ten minutes, the Gauchos were up by only three points 17-14. Merlo continued to run the offense at perfection so that Argentina went up 26-18 and forced an Australian timeout. Nobody could really improve his situation right after and the difference remained the same. But in the final seconds of the first half, Australia found some nicely created baskets and came back to 26-30 at the break.
Exum tied the game after three minutes with his 16th point as the Australian team increased its effort level. The game level raised as well with Deck attacking the basket from outside to give Argentina the small lead back. But Exum continued his show and Australia took the lead on a three pointer that was immediately answered by Merlo. Both teams knew that the game was on the line and worked hard to keep the score close. Luca Vildoza scored a big one for Argentina with the time of the third quarter running out. Australia seemed to have the better control of the game as they stole some balls in the passing lanes but Argentina did not give up. The Aussies could however go up to 61-54 behind the efforts of Ben Simmons in the paint. Everything went in their favor at that moment as they could even reach a double-digit lead with Exum on the bench. The Emu defense was now all over the place and Exum combined with Simmons for the most spectacular play of the day as the long 1996 born slammed one home. The game was over and Australia qualified for the semi-finals.
MVP: Dante Exum 23pts (9/16 FGs), 3rebs
Croatia – Czech Republic 94-71
The Czech Republic had some problems to come into the game as they turned the ball over easily giving Croatia the possibilities to get an early lead. Mario Hezonja faced Adam Pechacek in the man-to-man defense and the Croat immediately scored a three-pointer over him. Croatia played a lot in the paint with Marko Arapovic and Karlo Zganec to bring the score to 18-12 while the Czechs dominated the offensive rebound to create second chances. A key play happened though in the last seconds of the Q1 when Hezonja tried to play the last offense on a drive and got called for a charge which was his third foul. Jiri Dedek seemed to have a good day as the SG nailed his third three-pointer in the beginning of the second quarter to bring his team back to –1. Domagoj Bosnjak showed some good things with Hezonja on the bench and gave Croatia again a 5 point lead. But the Czechs were now finding their way on defense and scored several fast break points on dunks by Pechacek and Martin Peterka. They tied the score but could not build a lead with Hezonja being still on the bench until the halftime break as Zganec scored several important baskets in and around the paint.
Hezonja started the second half and immediately wanted to show how important he is to his team as he stole the ball twice to increase the Croatian lead to 6. Additionally, he drew the third foul of Pechacek. Paolo Martinelli scored two triples in a row to bring the lead to 9 but Peterka answered with a long distance shot on his own. Dedek continued his festival with two more bombs from downtown and the Czech Republic was back in the game. Hezonja showed the way now and Bosnjak hit another beautiful three but the gap was not becoming very large. But at –10, the Czechs needed a time-out as the game was slipping out of their hands. Peterka came back from a short break on the bench and he could reduce the gap again to four points in a short time. With ten minutes left on the clock, they still had a chance as Croatia was only up by 6. But the Czech Republic seemed to be tired now as Bosnjak could bring the lead of his team to 11 points with another three point shot. Peterka turned the ball over twice and Croatia ran away to a 15 point lead with 6 minutes on the clock. The game was all set and Croatia advanced to the semi-final where they will meet Australia on Saturday.
MVP: Domagoj Bosnjak 21pts (7/12 FGs), 5rebs, 7asts, 2stls