The hosting team used a big push from 3.000 local supporters to ignite their OMNITEL U18 European Championship debut with a 81-61 triumph over Ukraine on Thursday evening at the Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania.
|Edgaras Ulanovas was on target from downtown, making 4 of his five three point attempts|
Lithuania match record with Poland on top of Group A at 1-0 before the teams will go head-to-head tomorrow. Ukraine dropped to 0-1 together with Slovenia, and their game tomorrow will bestow one of the sides its first win.
The locals dominated the game from the start, and held a comfortable lead already at the break. Ukraine relayed too much on the big scoring skills of Oleksandr Prokopenko, but after scoring 14 points in the first 9 minutes he managed to add only 9 until the final buzzer, and without him it was a one-sided show.
Ukraine chased their opponent from the jump ball and was behind already by 24 points as the local fans enjoyed the show made by their future basketball heroes.
Edgaras Ulanovas was the top scorer of Lithuania with 18 points, Jonas Valanciunas followed with 16 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks ehile Vytenis Cizauskas had 12 and Deividas Pukis combined 11.
Prokopenko had 23 points for Ukraine and Klym Artamonov added 12.
The fans expected a Lithuanian show from the start but were stunned by the visiting Prokopenko.
After Artamonov scored the first bucket for his side, Prokopenko took over and hit 14 of Ukraine's following 16 points.
It was enough to write a 23-19 score on the boards in favor of Lithuania and helped Ukraine to stay in the game for a few more minutes.
The hosts waited until the 13the minute to start their engine, put up the pressure on defense and move the ball well for open shots.
When the half time buzzer cut the air, Lithuania finished the closing 7 minutes of the half by limiting Ukraine to only 4 points compared to 12, led by Valanciunas and Cizauskas.
Ulanovas and Pukis stepped up early in the 2nd half, but a series of turnovers allowed Ukraine to claw their way back into the game, and cut the margin to just 6 at 45-39 after 25 minutes.
Lithuania was ready with answers from the arc by the hands of Ulanovas and Pukis who managed to combine all the 16 points their team scored in the third period, enough for a 58-46 lead.
To make sure no challenge will arise from the other side of the court, Lithuania added 7 consecutive points that created a 21 point gap early in the 4th, which was more than enough to secure the first win.