2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Russia

Enzo Flojo on Jul 02, 2019 10:59 AM
2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Russia
Kai Sotto and the rest of Gilas Youth need to defeat Russia by at least 25 points to finish among the top two in their group at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece (Photo courtesy of FIBA.com).
With two losses in their slate and a day's rest, our Gilas Youth U19 national team will plunge back into action later tonight against Russia on the final day of the group phase at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece. 
 
Despite their two losses, the Filipinos actually still have a shot at finishing among the top two teams in the group, though that entails beating Russia by at least 25 points.
 
Now given that beating Russia alone is already quite a tall order, doing so by a quarter century may just be asking for too much already. 
 
Still, given how our boys have played, I wouldn't put it past them to spring a surprise or two. 
 
Against Russia, head coach Sandy Arespacochaga's wards will be up against one of the tallest teams in the entire tournament. And though the Russians don't have anyone as tall as Kai Sotto (their tallest is rarely-used Vladislav Goldin at 6'11"), they have really big wingmen who are sure to give our perimeter guys hell for 40 minutes. 
 
Leading the way is hotshot scorer Aleksandr Ershov, who at 6'6" will be a match-up nightmare around the arc against our own guards. Ershov is the 4th-best scorer so far in the tournament, averaging 19.0 points per game while shooting 54% from the field and sinking 2.0 triples per contest. 
 
Another guy to watch is 6'7" guard-forward NIkita Mikhailovskii, who turned a lot of heads on Day 2 by registering a triple-double with 20 points, 13 rebounds, and 12 assists. It was the first triple-double in the U19 World Cup since 2013, when current NBA player Dario Saric recorded 32 points, 12 boards, and 12 dimes against South Korea. 
 
Mikhailovskii was one of the All-Star Five players in last year's 2018 FIBA U18 European Championship, and his match-up with Dave Ildefonso should be one of the most tantalizing for this encounter. 
 
Down around the basket, much of the damage will probably come from 6'8" Dmitrii Kadoshnikov, who had 13 points and14 rebounds against Argentina on Day 1, and 6'7 Anton Kvitkovskikh, who is averaging 13.0 points and 6.5 rebounds after two games. 
 
To have a shot against Russia, Gilas Youth's perimeter defense will have to be airtight. The Russians love to swing the ball side to side to shift the opposing defense, and coach Sandy's scrambling defense has to be on-point to neuter their foes' dangerous sniping. Russia is 4th-best in terms of three-point shooting so far, making 34.0% of their attempts from beyond the arc, including hitting 9.0 treys per outing, so our team needs to key on that to have a chance at winning. 
 
On the other end, the Philippines must limit its turnovers. We average more than 18 turnovers per game, which is just too much at this level. Our most turnover-prone guys have been Carl Tamayo, Gerry Abadiano, and Dave Ildefonso, combining for 11.0 turnovers per game, so if those three can take better care of the ball, then odds are we can keep in step with Russia and perhaps be in a great position to steal this game in the last few minutes. 

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