Former UA forward Lauri Markkanen from Finland too much for Sweden, Wildcats guard Pelle Larsson | Arizona Wildcats basket
Lauri Markkanen played his first match for Finland in four years and lined up not only for some rowdy homeland fans but also for one of his basketball successors in Arizona.
The former UA forward who now plays for the Cavaliers collected 22 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and four steals to lead Finland to Thursday’s 85-69 win over Sweden and UA guard Pelle Larsson in a FIBA 2023 World Cup qualifying match in Espoo, Finland.
Larsson made his Swedish senior team debut and played 12 minutes from the bench while he scored three points and noted a steal. Markkanen, meanwhile, was more than happy with a fan base that had been eagerly waiting for him.
A translated version of the game story from the Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat described the atmosphere as “directly inferno” among the sold-out crowd of 6,951 fans.
– It is difficult to describe my feelings in words, Markkanen said afterwards, according to Helsingin Sanomat. “There could not be any better fans. They have been waiting a long time to see me play, but I have waited even longer for me to play in front of them.”
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While Markkanen and his teammates took a while to find their rhythm early in the match, Sweden jumped out to a 29-19 lead at the end of the first quarter. Larsson struck by hitting the only shot he took, a 3-pointer with 4:32 left in the first quarter, and gave Sweden a 17-8 lead.
However, Sweden only led 46-43 at the break and was during most of the second half while Markkanen caught fire.
The victory took a place in the second round of the World Cup qualifier for Finland, which is now 4-1 in Group C matches. Sweden (2-3) is scheduled to meet Luka Doncic and Slovenia (3-2) on Sunday in Stockholm.
Larsson’s senior team debut for Sweden was the first of what is expected to be many national team appearances for several Arizona players this summer.
The incoming newcomer Henri Veesaar had been expected to play for Estonia in the World Cup qualifiers but was not listed on the country’s 12-player roster when it lost to Germany 88-67 in the Group D match on Thursday. Veesaar done short appearances in three previous World Cup qualifiers.
While UA points guard Kerr Kriisa has spent most of the off-season in Tucson, it is possible that he will join the Estonian team for Eurobasket games in early to mid-September. Estonia is scheduled to open that event against Italy on September 2.
This weekend, UA center Oumar Ballo is scheduled to play for Mali’s senior team in its FIBA 2023 World Cup African qualifiers in Rwanda. Mali will face Uganda on Friday, Nigeria on Saturday and Cape Verde on Sunday.
At the same time, UA-rising student Adama Bal was one of 20 players invited to try out for France’s U20 team, which is scheduled to compete in the U20 European Championships July 16-24 in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Contact Sports Reporter Bruce Pascoe at 573-4146 or [email protected] On Twitter @brucepascoe