Czechs stun Croatia as other favorites go through

Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:38pm EDT
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LILLE, France (Reuters) - The Czech Republic pulled off the biggest upset of the European basketball championship after mauling Croatia 80-59 to reach the quarter-finals of the 24-nation tournament on Sunday.

Their reward will be a last-eight meeting with rampant Serbia, who secured their own berth with a sixth straight win after beating Finland 94-81.

Italy, 82-52 winners over Israel, take on Lithuania who ground out a dramatic 85-81 victory against fellow former Soviets Georgia.

The other two quarter-final ties feature a heavyweight clash between Spain and Greece while holders and hosts France take on unheralded Latvia.

The Croatians, who won their only international medal as an independent nation in the 1995 tournament when they finished third, failed to end a 20-year wait after they were picked apart by an aggressive Czech side.

The defeat also means the Croatians will miss the 2016 Olympics, with the top two advancing automatically while the next five enter three intercontinental qualifying tournaments for an extra three berths.

The Czechs blew away their rivals with former NBA forward Jan Vesely collecting 20 points and 13 rebounds, as Croatia committed a staggering 24 turnovers.

The fiasco prompted coach Velimir Perasovic to step down straight after the buzzer.

"I am to blame for this defeat and as far as I am concerned my mandate in the national team is over," Perasovic told Croatian media.   Continued...

Czech Republic's David Jelinek (12), Jiri Welsch (9), Petr Benda (4) and Tomas Satoransky (8) celebrate their victory in the EuroBasket 2015 round of 16 match against Croatia at the Pierre Mauroy stadium in Villeneuve d'Ascq near Lille, France, September 13, 2015. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier