Ed’s Note: Raul Ruscitti is a contributor to Raptors Republic, covering the international game. You can follow him on Twitter.
The second day of the tournament is on the books and it couldn’t be better for Raptors fans. Our main man in the tournament, Jonas Valanciunas, was, as expected, the best player on the floor. His team recovered from a heartbreaking loss to Croatia by destroying South Korea 117–64. Valanciunas was spectacular in just 19 minutes of action. Against a very inferior rival, his game was absolutely perfect. His line was 25 points (11/11 FG and 3/3 FT) 17 rebounds, 2 blocks and 2 turnovers in 19 minutes of play. On Saturday, Lithuania will play against Canada in the most important game of the tournament for Raptors fans.
Croatia won again despite playing a close game against Canada, 88-84. Everyone expected a big victory by them but it went down to the last play. The core of Saric, Hezonja and Katic and Barac is very solid and will probably take the team to the last stages of the championship. Dario Saric, a 17-year old 6’8’’ point-forward had a poor shooting game but continued his all around play that makes him one of the most talked about prospects in Europe. His line read 14 Pts (5/16 FG), 13 rebounds and 3 turnovers while playing all about two minutes.
Also for Croatia, Mario Hezonja recovered from a bad first game with a strong performance netting 21pts, 9/12 FG, 3/5 3FG and 3 steals in 25 minutes. Remember he’s born in 1995, so is three years younger than most other players.
In probably the most expected game of the day, USA beat Serbia 80-78 in an exciting and hard-fought game that was decided on the last shot. Aleksandar Cvetkovic (6’3’’, 17 years old), my favorite young point guard in Europe continue with a good scoring touch although he missed the last shot that could have won the game for his team. He was the top scorer of the game finishing with 20 pts on 5/8 shooting.
Latvia stayed undefeated by beating Australia 78-68 in a game that had Australia as a favorite after they demolished Argentina on opening day. After a disastrous opening game, the much-improved Davis Bertans was the second highest scorer with 22 points on 6/9 shooting. He’s a very good shooter but needs to add both weight and strength, and develop into a two-way player before he has a chance of suiting up for his parent club, the Spurs.
The worst “superstar” of the day was clearly Lucas Nogueira, the soon-to-be 19-year old Brazilian 7’0’’ center who had a very poor showing in Brazil’s 79–70 win over Poland. He fouled out in just 22 minutes and finished with just 4 points, he did have 6 rebounds and three blocks, but given his age and the hype surrounding him, it was a very disappointing performance.
At last, after being the surprise of the first day, Sergey Karasev scored just five points in Russia’s blowout win against Tunisia 101–55, in a game that saw the best prospect of Russia, Dimitri Kulagin (6’5’’ guard) lead his team with 18 points on 6/10 FG and 6 rebounds.
As for today, Lithuania-Canada and Argentina-Latvia are the most promising games. Serbia is expected to abuse Egypt and Croatia will probably blowout Korea on the last day of the first round.
By the way, after 2 games, our guy Jonas Valanciunas is the tournament statistical leader at both, points-per-game (22) and rebounds-per-game (15). Not bad for a 5th pick, right?
And here’s a FIBA interview with Jonas after losing to Croatia yesterday:Follow @raptorsrepublic