The FIBA U18 European Championship Men tips off its semifinal round with four teams keeping title hopes alive: Lithuania, Serbia, Turkey, and France. All the teams played the quarterfinals games yesterday, with Turkey pulling off the notable upset over Spain.
Today’s games pit Turkey against Serbia at 6pm CET and Lithuania against France at 8.15pm. FIBA briefs on yesterday’s games follow.
(FIBA Europe) – Lithuania found their shooting touch late in the game to pull away and beat Croatia, 74-55, in the quarterfinals at the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz, France.
After three quarters, the Lithuanians led 49-47 but had made just 19 of their 66 field goal attempts.
They were a much improved nine for 19 (including three of four from three-point range) in the final quarter and they clamped down on defense to outscore Croatia, 25-8.
Lithuania’s celebrations after the final whistle were fairly low-key, indicating that they expected to make it at least as far as the semifinals. “Yes, we didn’t have huge celebrations because this group can go very far in this tournament,” said Team Lithuania head coach Marius Linartas.
Croatia took a 16-12 lead on a pair of free-throws by Tony Prostran late in the first quarter, but Lithuania then ran off 10 consecutive points – including six from Vytenis Cizauskas – to go up 22-16 with 7:57 left in the half.
The Croatians closed to win three, 23-20, on Dino Jakolis’ lay-up but Cizauskas hit a pair of free-throws and Augustas Peciukevicius fed Giedrus Stanilius for an easy basket and Lithuania took their biggest lead of the first half, 27-20.
Lithuania were up 36-32 at the break despite a poor shooting first half, hitting on just 13 of 44 attempts from the field and not doing much better from the foul line (eight for 14).
Croatia made just four of 15 field goal attempts in the final frame and didn’t get to the free-throw line. Ivan Batur tied the game at 49 when he beat the shot clock early in the period but Saulius Kulvietus buried two three-pointers as part of a 12-2 run that handed Lithuania their first double-digit lead at 61-51 with just over five minutes remaining.
Ovidijus Varanauskas then made three lay-ups and a pair of free-throws over a two minute span for a 71-53 advantage and Gilvydas Biruta iced the game with a corner three in the closing seconds.
Jonas Valanciunas had team-highs of 16 points and 11 rebounds for Team Lithuania, while Cizauskas added a double-double of his own with 15 and 10.
Prostran led Croatia with 14 points and nine rebounds.
France just about held on to beat Russia, 74-61. The hosts led 43-29 at the halftime break and by as many as 21 at 52-31 midway through the third quarter, but then Russia went on a 16-0 run to close it to 52-47 on Dmitry Kulagin’s corner three-pointer with just over a minute left in the period.
Evan Fournier scored on a baseline drive in the closing seconds to put France up 54-47 as they headed into the final frame. That basket was the first in more than six minutes for the hosts.
Pavel Shavkunov put Russia back within five, 54-49, with nine minutes left in the game but that was as close as they got. Fabien Paschal made a pair of free-throws to restore a 10-point lead, 59-49, with just under six minutes to go and the Russians were now in the penalty the rest of the way.
France made enough free throws to keep a safe advantage, with Henri Kahudi then making a pair of field goals in the last two minutes to put the game well and truly beyond Russia’s reach.
“We just stopped playing – It’s as simple as that,” Team France head coach Philippe Ory said of his team’s passive play in the third quarter. “We gave up a few baskets and our players got worried they were going to make bad decisions so instead of doing what they usually would, they froze.
“Russia got back in the game but I think it was always going to be very hard for them to have a chance of winning. It goes without saying we can’t have that same lapse against Lithuania in the semifinal or we will pay the price.”
Serbia proved too strong in the second half as they beat Italy, 82-74.
“We expected it to be a close game and it was for the first half,” said Team Serbian reserve player Aleksandar Ponjavic. “But late in the third quarter, we made a good push, especially in the last minute. And of course we tried to play much better defense, which I think we did a good job of.”
The Serbs scored the last six points of the third quarter to break a 54-54 tie and, when Danilo Andjusic hit a three-pointer to open the final frame, they were up 63-54.
Italy got back to within four, 64-60, on Andrea De Nicolao’s pull-up jumper with 6:18 left to play, but Alessandro Ramagli’s side were overwhelmed by a stronger and fresher Serbian side.
Dejan Musli drove baseline and dunked with authority for a 68-60 lead with five minutes remaining. Branislav Djekic then hit three free-throws to put Serbia up by 11, 72-61.
Michele Vitali hit a corner three to close within seven, 74-67, and Italy had to foul to stop the clock. The strategy was fruitless, though, as Serbia hit on 11 of 12 free-throw attempts in the period.
Andjusic had a game-high 23 points, while Danilo Musli finished with 19 points, 11 rebounds and two assists.
De Nicolao had 22 points for Italy.
Turkey used an 8-0 run early in the second half to distance themselves from Spain on their way to a 76-62 win in their quarterfinal encounter.
The Turks led 30-28 at the break and scored the first eight points of the third quarter to take the game’s first double-digit lead, 38-28, on Enes Kanter’s three-pointer.
Spain got back within five, 40-35, when Ignacio Llovet made a nice spin move around Kanter for a lay-up, but Mustafa Derin’s side hit right back with Safak Edge burying a three-pointer and Furkan Aldemir scoring inside to restore the 10-point lead at 45-35 with 4:13 left in the period.
Edge hit a pair of free throws and another three-pointer, this time from the corner, to push the lead up to 50-37.
Spain were struggling to get any easy baskets and Miguel Servera’s three-pointer to cut the deficit to 52-44 heading into the final frame brought a sigh of relief more than anything else.
“We wanted to come out strong in the third quarter and try to dominate them right away. We didn’t want to give them a chance. I think we did a good job of it,” said Edge.
And yet again in the fourth quarter, Turkey had all the answers; Aldemir scored the first four points in the final period to push the advantage back up to 12, 56-42. Can Mutaf and Kanter later converted a three-point each for a 64-51 score.
Spain did threaten, if only briefly, when Josep Franch and Joan Sastre hit consecutive three-pointers to come back within eight, 65-57, with 4:29 remaining.
Kanter though made another three-point play and sealed the game with his second three-pointer of the day with about a minute left for a 75-61 advantage: the biggest lead of the game.
“In the fourth quarter, our most experienced players showed why they are the leaders,” Edge said of Kanter, Mutaf and Aldermir. “Every player has a role to play and they certainly played theirs late in the game.”
Kanter had 21 points, 18 rebounds, four blocks and three assists for Team Turkey, while Mutaf chipped in with 17 points.
Franch was the high man for Spain with 12 points and four assists.