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FIBA U19 World Cup Bracket Play: Ballo Dominates

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All six Zags move on to quarterfinals

FIBA

After a wildly successful group phase, Gonzaga players and recruits looked to continue their impressive tournament in bracket play. The round of 16 took place Wednesday morning, with the winners heading the quarterfinals. The losers continue to play in the consolation side of the bracket, allowing each team to play a full seven games. The teams will take Thursday off before returning to action on Friday. Here’s a recap of how the first round of bracket play went. You can follow along with the entire tournament by clicking here.

Joel Ayayi: 11 points (4-9 FG, 3-7 3pt), 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 turnovers, 19 minutes

France took on hometown Greece in the final game of the round of 16. All five other Zags had won earlier in the day to get to the quarterfinals. Ayayi followed suit. He started the game with consecutive threes to set the tone. He struggled a bit the rest of the first half, as did everyone in a grinder of game. France would move on with a convincing 77-46 win. After turning it over just five times in three games, Ayayi turned it over five times against Greece. Through four games, he’s shooting 57 percent from the field, 6-for-15 from beyond the arc and 10-for-19 from the foul line, good for exactly 20 points a game. France moves on to face defending champion Canada, who have an incredibly talented group of guards, led by South Carolina’s AJ Lawson.

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Canada - Friday 10:30 am pacific

Filip Petrusev: 17 points (7-8 FG, 3-7 FT), 8 rebounds, 3 steals, 1 block, 1 assist, 17 minutes

It was business as usual for Petrusev and Serbia, as they cruised to an 87-60 win over a severely mismatched Philippines squad. They look to be on a collision course to a semi-final showdown with the Americans (the only two unbeaten teams remaining). The stats for Petrusev in this tournament are impressive as can be. He’s averaging 20.3 points and 9.8 rebounds on an absurd 79.5 percent shooting from the field. He’s blocking more than two shots a game and has fewer than two turnovers. The only spot that’s discouraging is his 19-for-29 (65.5%) mark from the foul line.

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Lithuania - Friday 5:30 am pacific

Martynas Arlauskas: 4 points (1-3 FG, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 23 minutes

Arlauskas took a nasty fall in the first quarter after getting upended on a block attempt and landed on his neck. He returned fairly quickly, which was nice to see. Lithuania blew a double digit lead in the third quarter as Australia got to within a bucket, but the Lithuanians pulled away again in the fourth to win 91-74. Arlauskas continues to do what he’s done most of the tournament: play good defense and contribute when he can offensively. He’s averaging six points, four rebounds, and a steal and a half in four games. Their match-up with Serbia is a fascinating dual of really long, fundamentally sound teams.

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Serbia - Friday 5:30 am pacific

Oumar Ballo: 15 points (5-11 FG, 5-7 FT), 17 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 5 blocks

For the first time in its country’s history, Mali is moving on to the quarterfinals after a 77-62 win over New Zealand. It’s not just the best result for Mali, but it becomes the best performance by any African team in U19 World Cup history. After coming off the bench Tuesday, Ballo started and played a team-high 31 minutes on Wednesday. He had an easy double-double, with seven of his 17 rebounds coming on the offensive glass. Perhaps the most encouraging thing to see the last two days is that Ballo is 13-for-16 from the foul line after shooting under 50 percent in two tournaments last summer. Up next is a date with Julian Strawther. (Check out the block at the end of this video. Holy expletive!)

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Puerto Rico - Friday 3:00 am pacific

Julian Strawther: 15 points (5-9 FG, 1-4 3pt, 4-4 FT), 10 rebounds, 3 turnovers.

Puerto Rico finished 0-3 and last place in Group D. Argentina finished 3-0 and won Group C. So naturally, Puerto Rico came out and beat Argentina by 20 to move on to the quarterfinals. Sports are fun! More than anything, it shows how good Serbia and France are and how Puerto Rico got stuck in the worst group possible. Strawther had another strong game, but sat most of the fourth quarter and only played 20 minutes. He’s shooting a ridiculous 16-for-18 inside the arc the last two games. He grabbed a rebound on a half court airball with one second left to get his double double, which was pretty funny to watch.

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Mali - Friday 3:00 am pacific

Jalen Suggs: 9 points (2-6 FG, 3-3 FT), 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 0 turnovers

Suggs only played 13 minutes as the United States got everyone ample playing time in a 116-66 drubbing over winless Latvia. The 2020 priority recruit is shooting just 29 percent from the field in four games, but has seven steals and nine assists to just six turnovers. Here’s a good read from this morning on where Suggs stands with his recruitment and decision timeline (hint: it’s all good things).

Next Game: Quarterfinals vs Russia - Friday 8:00 am pacific