Filip Petrusev and his Serbian squad got the best of Joel Ayayi’s French team in a 78-67 win in the semifinals of the FIBA U18 European Championship. In what was expected to be a scintillating matchup between two of the tournament’s best performers, both Petrusev and Ayayi had relatively quiet games from a scoring standpoint as they finished with 7 and 6 points respectively.
Petrusev had been on a dominant run, scoring at least 20+ points and 7+ rebounds in each of the preceding 5 games leading up to the semi’s. He finished with 9 rebounds in the semi, and proved to be a capable facilitator too as he notched 6 assists and showcased adept passing ability from both the high and low post to take advantage of the amount of attention he was receiving from the French defense. While he’s done the bulk of his scoring damage from inside the point during the tournament, he had a few more opportunities to handle the ball beyond the three-point line during this game and looked comfortable with his ball-handling and movement, though he did finish with 6 turnovers.
For his part, Ayayi never seemed to get in rhythm and finished the night 2-8 from the field (6 points, 2 assists, 2 turnovers). Foul trouble hurt him in the first half, and the entire French team struggled to find any kind of offensive flow for much of the game and resorted to a lot of isolation basketball. Ayayi did convert a pair of three-pointers in the second half, but Serbia was successful at preventing the France squad from mounting any kind of legitimate run.
Despite both Ayayi and Petrusev having relatively quiet games, it’s easy to see how they could carve out roles for themselves at Gonzaga in the upcoming campaign despite the depth of the squad. The Zags still lack a true backup point guard for Perkins, but Ayayi certainly has the ability to fill in that role with his athleticism, vision and passing ability. The key for him will be to minimize the risk in his game and prove he can be trusted with the keys to the car. Petrusev looks really good from a technical standpoint and he has the versatility to be paired with anyone in Gonzaga’s current frontcourt. The biggest question mark for him will be how quickly he can get up to speed from a physical standpoint.
Ayayi and France will play Russia in the third-place game at 8:30 am PT on Sunday, while Petrusev and Serbia will hope to get past Latvia in the championship game starting at 10:45 am PT. Both games will be available for free viewing on youtube.com/fiba.