The second day in Wroclaw featured the very anticipated semi-finals of a tournament that was really open at this stage with no real favorite and no real stand-out players so far. But as always, the day started with the classification games.
Our first game of day was between Croatia and Lithuania where the Greens had the better start behind the domination in the paint of Arturas Gudaitis who scored 10 of their first 15 points while Tomas Lekunas was present with the highlight reel block sequence against the Croatian offense. Lithuania continued to dominate in the paint against the very weak Croatian inside defense while Marko Ramljak tried his best to run the Balkan offense. At halftime, Lithuania was up 41-32 with Gudaitis having scored already 16 points. Croats did not seem to really matter on what’s happening and Lithuania could put on a show in the second half to win this one easily.
In the relegation game between Ukraine and Finland, the Scandinavians were in the game during the first half behind their great fighting spirit and the scoring talent of Joonas Caven. But in the second halftime, the Ukrainian duo of Volodymyr Gerun and Klym Artamonov took over and we had in the end a pretty easy win for the team from Eastern Europe.
Italy – Serbia 61-67
Italy opened the score on a nice three-point shot by Matteo Imbrò from the corner. This was the starting point of a great start on both ends of the floor for the underdog as their team defense did some damage and Imbrò could hit a second long distance shot to bring the score to 8-1. The Serbian defense seemed to forget the guard who could score another one from mid-range and the favorites had to take a first timeout. This did not change much as the Azzurri continued where they finished yesterday with fantastic team defense and great execution on offense. Serbia changed to a zone defense which made the Italians take bad shots and gave the team of Vasilije Micic several chances on the fast break. However, Italy did not panic and the difference remained in double-digits at the end of the first quarter.
The beginning of the second quarter was marked by the fact that not much was happening as both teams missed their shots. This was of course in favor of Italy who was up 30-16 after 15 minutes. With Imbrò resting on the bench, Serbia could reduce the gap a bit but there was still big nervosity in the game as both teams were approaching a little brawl after a hard foul on the break. Micic tried to speed up the Serbian offense and it was Nemanja Bezbradica who was once again doing a big job in the paint who reduced the gap to less than ten points on a put back. But the Serbian big injured his knee on an offensive rebound situation and this did not change much on the score before halftime. Italy was up 33-24 with Bezbradica struggling to walk back to the locker room.
Italy came out like in the beginning of the game with 7 quick points as Amedeo Tessitori was present in the paint with rebounds and scores. The 1994 born big guy even showed some promising passing skills from the top to find his team mates in high-low situations. Nenad Miljenovic was not happy with the situation and scored 4 points in a row but Tessitori came up with his next assist to give Italy again a 14 point lead. Miljenovic and Nikola Jankovic were the only ones able to score for Serbia at that moment so that the coach tried to change the game speed by switching defenses constantly. This had some effect as Jankovic could bring the score to 46-38 shortly before the end of the third quarter. Another Serbian fast break and the favorites were definitely back in the game at 46-40.
Imbrò seemed to have lost all his shooting touch and this gave Miljenovic the possibility to bring his team back to a one basket difference on a +1 play on the break. But this was answered immediately by the tough guard Mattia Magrini who scored with the foul as well. But the momentum was clearly on the Serbian side as Miljenovic hit another one and then Stefan Popovski made his first basket of the game to have a one point difference. But it was not enough to take the lead as the Italians found the way back to their game and forced Serbia to take a time out with 5 minutes left on the clock after another Tessitori scored on the offensive glass. But with 2min40 left, Serbia took the lead for the first time of the game on a hustle play on the offensive glass. Jankovic added two additional points from the free-throw line so that Serbia was up 4 with 1min36 to go. Magrini scored two from the line when Milejnovic made the improbable turnover to give Italy a chance to tie it. But another incredible error in saving a ball even lead to a one point lead for Italy. However Popovski took his chance and scored the huge triple with 30 seconds left and virtually decided the game. Imbro had the floater but Miljenovic was now perfect from the free-throw line and put the score back to +4. Italy could not turn it around anymore and Serbia finally won this one after some very hard work.
MVP: Nenad Miljenovic 20pts (5/12 FGs – 10/13 FTs), 6rebs, 4asts
Spain – Turkey 77-54
Spain had the better start in the game as they were simply more active. Alex Abrines hit the early three and in a incredible sequence with 5 offensive rebounds in a row, Daniel Diez gave them a 7-1 lead. Guillermo Hernan-Gomez put Turkey in even more trouble as he drew the second foul of Ramazan Tekin after only 5 minutes. Spain continued their incredible energy bursting hustle on the offensive glass which helped them to bring the score to 16-3 after 8 minutes. Even the entry of Kenan Sipahi did not change much on the offensive draught of Turkey so that the score after the first ten minutes was 19-5 in favor of Spain.
The Spanish power defense made it impossible for Turkey to score anything and while on the other end, the shots were falling for Jaime Fernandez and Alejandro Suarez, Spain went up 32-9 after 13 minutes. Turkey struggled badly in the defensive rebound as Spain collected 15 offensive boards after only 17 minutes and having missed 17 field goal attempts that far. This gave them so many second chances so that they could maintain the gap at +20. Turkey did not look inspired at all and the Iberians went up 40-16 at halftime on another hard drive by Jorge Sanz.
Turkey started better into the second half as they were more concentrated on defensive rebounds but Spain did not lose the control of the game as Diez scored a big three-pointer from the corner. The Spanish energy level continued to remain very high and Turkey had no real chance to come back into the game. Spain started already with the reserve players with 7 minutes left on the clock in order to prevent injuries and save energy for the Final of tomorrow.
MVP: Daniel Diez 16pts (6/9 FGs), 13rebs, 1ast, 1blk