Giannis goes big as Greece usurp Ukraine to cement Group C top spot
MILAN (Italy) - Giannis Antetokounmpo hit 41 points to drive Greece to overpower Ukraine 99-79 on Tuesday and clinch top spot in Group C with a game to spare.
A tour de force from The Greek Freak who was unstoppable in a third quarter in which the two-time former champions of FIBA EuroBasket finally shrugged off the challenge of their rivals to protect their unbeaten record in Milan.
Antetokounmpo personally delivered a 7-0 start and his absence was notable when Ukraine made their first significant charge with nine unanswered points to take a 25-23 lead early in the second period.
Yet after Greece trailed 46-39 at half-time, they unleashed the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player and he proved irresistible during a 24-6 start to the third that provided all the momentum required.
And Ukraine - paced by 16 points apiece from Svi Mykhailiuk and Issue Sanon - found no response in succumbing to their first loss of this tournament.
Turning Point: Down 49-43 in the third, Antetokounmpo scored 13 successive Greek points in a 20-4 burst that turned the game on its head.
TCL Player of the Game: Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 41 points, the most by a player in a single EuroBasket game since Dirk Nowitzki's 43 in the 2001 edition, as he shot 13-for-18 from the field and 15-for-18 from the foul line. He added 9 rebounds for an outlandish efficiency rating of 43.
Stats Don't Lie: Greece got to the foul line 30 times, making 24 - with Giannis 15-for-18 personally. Ukraine were a perfect 6-for-6 from their free throws but were held off.
Bottom Line: Greece will take the top seeding in Group C with a chance to end this phase unbeaten by beating Estonia on Friday. Ukraine, already guaranteed qualification, meet Croatia in their Milan goodbye.
"When we started the game, we were a bit sloppy. We didn’t have a lot of energy. Not to make excuses, but they had a game last night and gave it their all. But we went back at halftime, regrouped as team, and we went out there in the third quarter, we defended well and from our defence, we got a lot of looks on offense. I think we did a good job in the second half being focused –playing our game, which is trying to get as many stops as possible as we can. Offensively, when we move the ball, good things are going to happen." - Greece forward Giannis Antetokounmpo
"We are a team that generates points from our defense and we proved that in the second half. Just giving up 33 points and having control of the game. From defense, we have not missed that many shots. That was a good lesson. In terms of building a good culture, this is a marathon, not a sprint. But when players are this focused, goosebumps are going to the coaches’ bodies." - Greece head coach Dimitrios Itoudis
"We showed we can play defense with anybody. We can guard guys. Now we just got to figure out and clean some stuff up offensively, a little bit on our turnovers. Sometimes offensively, we get lost a little bit. But once we figured that stuff out, we are just going to get better. We already are seeing growth in three games. We were in this game until the third quarter. Today, we just got to watch and learn from from the third quarter but I think we can compete with anybody."- Ukraine centre Alex Len
“It was very easy to prepare the team because it is absolutely clear with they do with Giannis. Greece play very aggressive basketball and if you don’t play a higher level of aggression, you have problems. But I think our first two quarters were our best here.” – Ukraine head coach Ainars Bagatskis