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FIBA U19 World Cup: Petrusev vs Ayayi

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Strawther goes off, Ballo returns

FIBA

The group phase of the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup finished on Tuesday morning. All 16 teams have played three games and have been seeded into bracket play, with the one seeds facing four seeds from other groups, and the two seeds playing three seeds. The round of 16 takes place Wednesday before everyone takes a day off and heads into the final three days of action.

The biggest game of group play was Serbia vs France, a rematch of their 2018 semi-final in the U18 European Championships, won by Serbia. In that game, Filip Petrusev and Joel Ayayi each had their worst game of the tournament. Both of them were looking to redeem themselves on Tuesday. Leading into the game, Ayayi said, “It’s pretty cool to play against your teammate at a World Cup. We both have to be locked in and ready to kill - even though I hope he’s not gonna kill us.” Petrusev responded back with, “We know each other, it’s going to be for first place in the group. I’m just gonna go out and play hard. Me and Joel are always talking trash to each other. So it’s gonna be fun.”

Joel Ayayi: 33 points (12-22 FG, 8-11 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 4 steals, 1 turnover

So how did the much anticipated rematch turn out? Well, I would say it lived up to the hype. Ayayi was absolutely unstoppable all game, getting to the rim whenever he wanted, finishing in transition, and being an absolute pest defensively. His 13 third quarter points brought France to within four, but they could never quite get over the hump in the fourth quarter and find the big shot. Serbia held on to win 85-76. Through three games, Ayayi is averaging an eye-popping 23 points, good for second in the tournament. He’s doing it at an efficient clip, too, shooting 64 percent inside the arc. He also has 12 steals and only five turnovers. France finished second in Group D.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs Greece - Wednesday 10:30 am pacific

Filip Petrusev: 18 points (7-10 FG, 4-7 FT), 13 rebounds, 3 steals, 3 blocks, 1 turnover

Petrusev once again took advantage of his size and put up a double-double. The most encouraging part is that he has been attacking the offensive glass. He grabbed six offensive boards on Tuesday and is averaging 4.3 in the tournament. After being the leader the first two games, Petrusev was a complimentary piece to the U18 Euro MVP Marco Pekarski, who poured in 28 to help Serbia hold off France. Petrusev is averaging 21.3 points, 10.3 rebounds, and 2.7 blocks through three games, all marks in the top five for the tournament. He’s shooting an incredible 77.4 percent from the field, by far the best clip of any player. Serbia went 3-0, won Group D, and might be co-favorites with the USA at this point.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs Philippines - Wednesday 8:15 am pacific

Martynas Arlauskas: 9 points (4-14 FG, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block

It’s been nice seeing what kind of game Arlauskas has after being in the dark since his commitment. If you haven’t watched any of Lithuania’s games, Arlauskas is a very hard-nosed defender on one end and an excellent transition finisher on the other. His half-court offense is a work in progress. He’s shown himself to be a decent spot-up shooter, but his scoring is not what will earn him minutes at Gonzaga. It will be his tenacious defensive ability and little things mentality. He’s not a superstar, but he rarely does things wrong. Lithuania fell to New Zealand, 77-75, and finished third in group A.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs Australia - Wednesday 7:45 am pacific

Oumar Ballo: 20 points (6-9 FG, 8-9 FT), 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 3 blocks

After missing Mali’s historic first two wins because of travel issues, Ballo made his triumphant return on Tuesday to take on Australia. He showed all the reasons why he can become a mega-star as soon as 2020. Ballo hit two late free throws and a contested fadeaway to tie the game, but Mali lost on a last second shot. Ballo scored 20 points off the bench and stuffed the stat sheet in a multitude of ways. He runs the court well for being so big and showed off some nice passing from the post. He even shot well from the foul line. Mali finished in a three-way tie for first in Group C, but tiebreakers placed them third in the group heading into bracket play.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs New Zealand - Wednesday 3:45 am pacific

Julian Strawther: 35 points (14-21 FG, 5-10 FT), 4 rebounds, 4 steals, 5 turnovers

After an impressive 22-point performance against Serbia on Sunday, Strawther one-upped himself and poured in a single-game, tournament-high 35 points in just 24 minutes in a 99-94 loss to China. The 2020 commit has shown a keen ability to attack the rim, both in transition and off the bounce in the half court. On Tuesday, he was a hyper-efficient 12-for-13 inside the arc. His three-point shooting is still coming along (3-for-18 in three games), but his explosive slashing ability from the wing is something Gonzaga has rarely ever had. He’s averaging 22 points through three games. Gonzaga has three of the top five scorers in the tournament. Puerto Rico finished last in group D.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs Argentina - Wednesday 6:00 am pacific

Jalen Suggs: 14 points (4-10 FG, 4-6 FT), 4 assists, 2 steals, 3 turnovers

Suggs has started all three games for the United States, but struggled a bit in the first two. He played with much more confidence in game three. Suggs scored 11 first half points to lead the US. The 2020 priority recruit is 6-for-22 from the field in three victories. America waxed Senegal 87-58 to finish the group stage and remain the favorite to win it all. Serbia has proven to be the second best team in the field and a potential match-up with them looms in the semi-finals. They faced each other in an exhibition friendly prior to the tournament and the US won a tight game that came down to the final possession.

Next Game: Round of 16 vs Latvia - Wednesday 3:15 am pacific