Three teams: Italy, Lithuania and Spain advanced to the next stage of qualifying for next year’s FIBA World Cup, while Belarus, who were close to upsetting the latter on Friday, got their reward by claiming the scalp of last year’s Eurobasket winners.
Many would argue that Slovenia were nowhere near at full strength, but they were still expected to leave the Belarussian capital with a win. However, in a World Cup qualifying stage that has thrown some big shocks since it started in November, Belarus’ 93-92 win over the Slovenians in Group A ranks amongst the highest.
And it was one of the unsung heroes of their triumph in Istanbul last summer, Klemen Prepelic, who missed the vital free throw that could have sent the game to overtime with 3.9 seconds left to hand Belarus a famous win, regardless of the opinion that the critics of the new international windows might have.
Devon Saddler had 25 points to lead Belarus. Maksim Salash added an impressive double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds. Jaka Blazic led Slovenia with a game-high 27.
Spain just managed to escape from Minsk unscathed to register their third straight win of the World Cup qualifiers. They made it four from four in Group A with a hard-fought 79-67 win over Montenegro. Pablo Aguilar led the way with 16 points.
In Group C, Lithuania broke clear in the second quarter to despatch of minnows Kosovo 106-50 in Klaipeda to improve to 4-0.
Rio Monbus forward Eimantas Bendzius paced the Lithuanians with 22 points, cancelling out Shawn Jones’ 23-point effort for Kosovo.
And Italy ran riot in their Group D clash in Cluj, as they scored 35 points in the first quarter and never looked back, hammering a sorry Romania side 101-50 with Amedeo Della Valle leading the charge with 29 points.
Group A: Belarus 93-92 Slovenia; Spain 79-67 Montenegro
Group B: Ukraine 77-66 Sweden; Latvia 79-70 Turkey
Group C: Lithuania 106-50 Kosovo; Hungary 64-57 Poland
Group D: Romania 50-101 Italy; Croatia 82-78 Netherlands