Bulgaria and Austria booked their respective tickets to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 qualifiers on Saturday, via the pre-qualifying round as did the Netherlands, even though they had the evening off.
The Bulgarians were hardly troubled as they routed Portugal 91-65 in their Group D clash Botevgrad. Aleksander Vezenkov paced the victors with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists as they raced to an early 28-11 first quarter lead and never looked back.
Fabio Lima led Portugal with 16 points, but they were outclassed by a stronger, quicker Bulgarian outfit.
Austria found similar luck as they qualified with a resounding 97-63 win over minnows Albania in Group B.
Rasid Mahalbasic paced Austria with an all-round showing of 25 points, nine rebounds and six assists as his side ran riot in the first quarter, jumping to a 33-19 lead and from there, the game was over as a contest.
Austria’s victory meant that the unbeaten Netherlands also qualified from the group, as they enjoyed the evening off. They play the Austrians on Wednesday night.
Group A is proving to be toughest to call following Saturday’s round of games. Surprise package Armenia are in the best position to advance after they convincingly despatched of Slovak Republic on the road 92-78.
Ryan Boatright had 22 points to lead the Armenians, who were gold medal winners at the Championship for Small Countries last summer. They can guarantee a spot in November’s World Cup qualifiers with a win in one of their two remaining games.
Sweden have put themselves in contention to seal the second spot from Group A after they completed a double over Bosnia and Herzegovina with an 88-72 road win.
Thomas Massamba shot 63 percent from the field on the way to a game-high 20 points for the Swedes who have two games left and both of them are on home court.
Group C is also proving to be a tough pool to call. Rounding out Saturday’s action, FYR of Macedonia picked up a win at their third time of trying, defeating Kosovo 87-74.
Basketball Champions League regular season MVP Jordan Theodore had his best outing yet for his adopted country, scoring a game-high 24 points.
Estonia, who had the night off remain in command with two wins in as many games, but all three teams remain in a realistic position to keep their FIBA World Cup dream alive.