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FIBA U19 World Cup: Ballo Leads Mali to Title Game

USA destroys Lithuania, Petrusev struggles

The Final Four of the FIBA U19 World Cup included four Gonzaga players/commits/prospects. In general terms, this tournament has been dominated by Gonzaga players. Heading into the day, they had four of the top seven scorers and two of the top five rebounders. They also had four guys in the top 10 in two-point field goal percentage. It’s probable that Gonzaga gets multiple players on the all-tournament team. Now the question is how the performances this summer will translate back in America at the division 1 college level.

Joel Ayayi: 8 points (2-7 2pt, 1-9 3pt, 1-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 turnovers

Oumar Ballo: 17 points (5-12 FG, 7-9 FT), 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 0 turnovers

France took on Mali in the first of two semi-final games and jumped out to an early lead. Mali responded with a 26-14 second quarter to take a 39-33 lead into halftime. Ayayi scored just five points on 2-7 shooting in the opening half, while Ballo poured in 16 points and grabbed five rebounds as part of a monster second quarter.

The teams traded mini runs in the third quarter. Mali extended the lead to nine and France would cut it back down to two. In the end, the third quarter was even and Mali held to a six point lead heading to the final 10 minutes. France cut the lead down to one with four minutes to go, but they could never hit the big shot to take the lead. Mali finished it off with a huge alley-oop to go up by five with a minute to go and held on for a 76-73 victory.

It’s hard to describe what Mali is doing in this tournament. They had never won more than a game in their two appearances here and an African country had never even won a quarterfinal game. Now, Mali is going to the championship to face the United States. It’s an incredible story and Ballo is at the forefront of it all. He played all but 30 seconds in the second half and finished the game with 38 minutes.

Next Game: Championship - Mali vs USA - Sunday 10:30 am pacific

Next Game: Third place - France vs Lithuania - Sunday 8:00 am pacific

Martynas Arlauskas: 3 points (1-2 FG), 2 rebounds

Jalen Suggs: 15 points (5-13 FG), 4 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 steals

In the second semi-final, Lithuania took on a United States team that defeated them by 18 in the group stage. The US made sure they never had a chance. The Americans steamrolled through the game and won 102-67. They grabbed 22 offensive rebounds and forced 22 turnovers, led by Suggs’ six steals. This was the best game of the tournament for Suggs, doing all of his damage in just 15 minutes of action. The USA looks to cap off their dominant run against Mali in the title game.

Next Game: Championship - USA vs Mali - 10:30 am Sunday

Next Game: Third place - Lithuania vs France 8:00 am Sunday

Filip Petrusev: 13 points (6-18 FG, 1-3 FT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 0 turnovers

A day after turning the ball over 10 times, Petrusev put up a goose egg in that category. However, he struggled from the field. He had been shooting upwards of 70 percent for the tournament before a 6-18 output against Russia. Serbia led most of the second half before the Russian side came back late and stole an 83-79 victory. It’s been a disappointing two days for Serbia, who was seen as a threat to win the whole thing. They’ll now be playing in the 7th place game. Petrusev is averaging 18.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in the tournament.

Next Game: 7th place vs Canada - Sunday 7:45 am pacific

Julian Strawther: 21 points (6-12 2pt, 3-9 3pt), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover

Strawther has been impressive getting to the rim all tournament long. His athletic, slashing, finishing ability is something Gonzaga has always really lacked from the wing position. Puerto Rico had a nice win against Canada on Saturday to move to the fifth place game. Strawther is third in the tournament in scoring with 19 points. He’s shooting 60 percent inside the arc and is grabbing 5.5 rebounds a game.

Next Game: 5th place vs Russia - 3:00 am Sunday