Federico Mussini and Italy were in desperate need of a victory on day two of the 2016 U20 FIBA European Championship, while Yankuba Sima and Spain were itching to start the tournament with a 2-0 record.
Italy cruised past Belgium, 89-64, in a game that was never close thanks to Italy's ball movement, transition attack and ability to force turnovers and convert them into points on the other end. They are now 1-1 heading into their final group play match-up on Tuesday against Sweden (11:30 a.m. ET).
In the 11:30 a.m. ET showdown, Spain and Finland went into overtime, where Arizona commit Lauri Markkanen (33 points) hit the go-ahead layup with two seconds remaining to help the host walk away victorious. Spain is also 1-1 heading into their final group play game on Tuesday against Israel (1:45 p.m. ET).
Mussini thrust into starting lineup
Mussini was added into the starting lineup following a 16-point outing and an impressive fourth quarter display in Italy's loss to Czech Republic on Saturday.
In the squad's drubbing over Belgium on Sunday, Mussini continued his success as he was Italy's second leading scorer, dropping 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (4-of-9 from beyond the arc), and grabbing four rebounds in 23 minutes.
The point guard dished out just two assists and handled the ball more than he did in his U20 debut yesterday. Mussini dealt with Belgium's 3/4 court pressure defense effectively - he didn't turn the ball over a single time, while making smart, intelligent passes within the flow of the offense.
Mussini put up just two points in the second frame, though he didn't play in the fourth quarter due to his team's large lead.
If the Italian lead guard is going to receive consistent playing time for the Red Storm this season, he needs to emphasize his defense. Even though his energy is solid, he struggles to stop the ball in transition and lacks the lateral quickness to stay in front of savvy ball handlers. Italy often hides Mussini by forcing him to defend the off-guard, but will that really work against the athletes in the Big East?
Game experience is critical for development, but this might be an area of Mussini's game that is more about his lack of strength than anything else.
Sima drops double figures
Sima scored 16 points on 4-of-5 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds, blocked one shot and only committed one foul after battling foul trouble on Saturday.
He also hit a promising 80 percent of his free throws (8-of-10 overall) after shooting just 39 percent from the line during his freshman season. If Sima can show that kind of touch consistently, the Johnnies will feel comfortable playing him alongside Yakwe, who isn't a great free throw shooter himself.
While Sima showed impressive patience when receiving the ball on the low block, he still is still hesitant to use his left hand and doesn't finish well through contact.
Also, despite grabbing seven rebounds, Sima tends to get pushed around on the inside and often cannot complete a defensive possession with a board. He is an excellent rim protector and played solid overall defense on Markkanen (scored just nine points when Sima was guarding him and 24 points against everyone else). However, he could take the next step with added strength and better hand-eye coordination.
Placing him alongside a more physical big like Marvin Clark Jr. (in 2017-18) and Yakwe (as he continues to build strength) will certainly help the Johnnies become more imposing on the interior.