2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Serbia
Enzo Flojo on Jul 03, 2019 08:39 PM
Kai Sotto and the rest of Gilas Youth will try to avoid a fourth straight setback when they take on undefeated Serbia in the Round of 16 knockout stage.
The Philippines are entering tonight's Round of 16 knockout match against Serbia as a winless team, but that doesn't mean their Eastern European foes will take them lightly.
On the contrary, Serbia will likely put pedal to the metal early on, leaving nothing to chance against a Philippine squad that was able to stick with Greece and Argentina on Days 1 & 2 of the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup.
Now, granted, it's not like our boys are going to be the favorites. Of course they won't, especially not with AJ Edu flying back to Ohio to nurse his unfortunate injury.
Serbia, after all, is entering this game winners of their three assignments in Group D, including an 85-76 victory of highly touted France last night.
Serbia is among the best offensive teams in the tournament, shooting 48% from the field on top of grabbing 23 offensive rebounds and handing out 21 assists per per game.
Serbia also has the most productive player so far in the entire field, Filip Petrusev, who has recorded an average efficiency per game of 31.0. The 6'11" center has normed 21.3 points, 10.3 boards, 2.7 blocks, and 2.0 assists per contest while shooting 77.4% from the field.
He has basically been unstoppable, and he will certainly give out very own Kai Sotto a lot to think about in their marquee matchup in the middle.
Aside from Petrusev, Serbia also has a handful of other guys who can give our boys nightmares. 6'10" forward Marko Pecarski has been a scoring demon, too, putting up around 21 points per game, while 6'9" Dalibor Ilic has been gobbling up boards like crazy, hauling down 10.3 rebounds per meeting. Their best shooter, meanwhile, has been 6'6" shooting guard Uros Trifunovic, who's norming 1.3 triples per match.
Needless to say, the Filipinos will have their work cut out for them.
For coach Sandy Arespachocaga's wards to do well, they have to execute their motion offense to the T while also playing as tightly as they can on defense, including maybe a sprinkling of full court on-ball pressure against Serbia's ball-handlers.
That means guys like Dalph Panopio, Gerry Abadiano, and Dave Ildefonso have to be terrific on both ends of the floor. They cannot afford to turn the ball over like they have been doing so far, and they have to make decision-making extra challenging for Serbia's guards.
It goes without saying that Kai Sotto needs to have a big game as well. Kai has had pretty impressive numbers in the group phase, even against top tier competition like Francisco Caffaro of Argentina, but nobody has been better than Petrusev so far, so if Kai can hold his own here, then that'll be even stronger validation of his tantalizing potential.
Gilas Youth also needs to shoot the ball well here. Against Russia, our guys shot a paltry 2/19 from beyond arc, while giving up 9 Russian treys. That cannot happen again lest this game gets out of hand early.
If Kai gets his numbers, our guards play the game of their lives, and we tighten up on D, there's a sliver of hope that a miracle may be on its way; otherwise, we're staring down the barrel of our fourth straight loss.