Greece’s surging young national team got its third win in a row at the World Cup basketball championship in Spain, beating winless Puerto Rico, 90-79, behind some sharp shooting and the athletic play of 19-year-old Yiannis Antetonkoumpo, from a Nigerian immigrant family.
After leading by eight at the half, the Greek team took a 16-point lead, 68-52 at the end of three and seemed on its way to an easy win. But the scrappy Puerto Ricans ran off seven points in a row and rattled the Greeks with a full-court press that threatened to discombobulate the leaders.
But Olympiakos’ Kostas Sloukas, who was named Greece’s Best Young Player in 2011, buried a three-pointer to slow the run before Antetonkoumpo started taking over the floor, scoring on a flying play and putting energy into his team.
The high scorer for Greece was Nikolaos Zisis, who plays for Unics Kazan in Russia. He hit a big three-pointer late in the game to stop another frantic onslaught by the pressing Puerto Ricans. Zisis had 19 points. Renaldo Balkman had 23 to lead Puerto Rico.
Greece is in good position, atop its group with a 3-0 record and with a top challenger, Croatia, being stunned 77-75 by Senegal to take its first defeat. Greece had easily beaten Senegal in the opening match. Greece next plays Croatia on Sept. 3 and perhaps its toughest opponent in the group, Argentina, on Sept. 4. Croatia beat Argentina earlier, 90-85.