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Favorites United States prevail, set up dream Final with magical Mali
HERAKLION (Greece) - Six-time champions United States took care of business and shrugged off the pressure of being favorites in beating Lithuania in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2019 Semi-Finals to set up a Final for the ages against ultimate underdogs Mali, whose fairytale ride continued with a win over France.
United States wear down Lithuania in second half
United States used their 40 minutes of pressure defense in wearing down Lithuania as they picked up a 102-67 victory to reach the Final. A day after four Lithuanian players were forced to play at least 30 minutes in an overtime Quarter-Finals win over Serbia, the Americans forced 22 turnovers and won the third quarter 31-16.
The big man dup of Jeremiah Robinson and Reggie Perry combined for 24 rebounds - as well as 21 points - in leading the United States' dominance of the glass to the tune of 57-38, including 22 offensive rebounds. The United States also had one of their first strong outside shooting games, hitting 12-of-35 three-pointers for 34 percent, with Jalen Green ignoring hitting just 2-of-17 three-pointers coming into the game to connect four times from long range in scoring 18 points. Kira Lewis drained all three of his three-point attempts as United States overwhelmed the Europeans. who connected on just 36 percent from the field.
Mali work their magic in forging past France
Any doubters of Mali really should put their questions to rest as the Africans showed just how solid they are from top to bottom with an impressive 76-73 win over France. Alhadji Dicko's side took an early punch from the French but answered it and truly fended off the Europeans, who never trailed by more than nine points.
Oumar Ballo and Fousseyni Drame both collected 17 points and 11 rebounds - while Ballo added 4 blocks - and Hassan Drame picked up 13 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals as Mali regularly answered any challenge France could muster. Siriman Kanoute chipped in 11 points as he struggled with his shot - just 5-of-16 from the field - but he had 2 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals and just 2 turnovers as Mali kept composed despite history's heavy weight bearing down on their young shoulders.
Mali, who committed just 12 turnovers, also did an excellent job slowing down France star Joel Ayayi, who had averaged 21 points a game coming into the Semi-Finals but was held to just 8 points on 3-of-15 shooting. Mathis Dossou-Yovo had 18 points and Kenny Baptiste and Babacar Niasse were able to chip in 14 and 13 points, respectively, but they were not enough to make up the lacking production from Ayayi.