Tuesday was the final day of group play in the 2016 U20 FIBA European Championship, with both Italy and Spain set to determine their status for the 16-team bracket.
Italy fell to 1-2 in the tournament after losing to Sweden, 69-65. Federico Mussini's squad was up by seven points at the half, but Sweden immediately stormed back with effective pick-and-roll play that sparked a 7-0 run to start the 3rd quarter. Italy will face Serbia tomorrow in the first round of bracket play at 11:30 a.m. ET.
In the most surprise development of the day, Yankuba Sima and Spain knocked off Israel (who was 2-0 before Tuesday) by 19 points. They ended group play with a 2-1 record and a second place finish (Finland was first). Spain will take on Hungary tomorrow morning at 9:15 a.m. ET.
Mussini puts up double figures in scoring..again
While Italy likely should have won this game, Mussini tied the team high in scoring with 13 points on 3-of-8 shooting. He played 24 minutes, dished out only one assist, turned the ball over two times, and had two total rebounds.
With 10 seconds remaining, Italy had an opportunity to tie or take the lead. Instead, Mussini came off a pick-and-roll and had his go-ahead three point attempt blocked with six seconds left.
Mussini looked more comfortable playing off the ball, as he was able to come off screens, set his feet and get into a rhythm in order to launch a three point shot. When the 6'0" lead guard played with the ball in his hands, Sweden pressured him full court, and Mussini often looked out of sync (and Italy struggled to get into their offense).
This is something we saw often last year, especially in Big East play. While Mussini's strength and size is an issue, the best facet of his game is his ability to knock down shots and get hot from long range in a hurry. With Marcus LoVett and Shamorie Ponds joining the Johnnies backcourt, this means that Mussini's minutes will likely decrease, but his efficiency and open looks could increase by playing off the ball.
Sima progressively improve in U20 EURO Championship
The efficiency wasn't there, but Sima put together his most complete game of the tournament thus far.
The big man finished with 12 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in 22 minutes of action. He shot just 5-of-14 from the field and 2-of-6 from the free throw strike. However, his activity and aggressiveness helped him impact both ends of the floor.
While Sima is not a powerful rebound, he seemed to have a knack for the ball on Tuesday, tipping it to his teammates, finishing put backs and blocking shots from a weak side help position. He showed a bit more confidence on the interior and made better judgement when attempting to challenge shots around the basket.
Sima nearly picked up his second foul early in the second quarter and picked up two quick fouls early in the third, but he settled down when Spain switched into a zone defense. He patrolled the interior, forcing Israel to settle for long range twos.
Spain's overall defense was so solid that they held Israel's best player, Tamir Blatt, to nine points on 3-of-10 shooting (five turnovers).