Semis: Lithuania's Size Against French Speed

02.08.2008

Lithuania will look to exploit their size advantage inside but will need to stop France from getting out on the break as the two proud hoops nations battle in the second semi-final at the U18 European Championship Men.

The Lithuanians have not won a title at this age group since capturing their only crown in 1994.

Their only other appearance in a final was in 2006 when they lost to France at the tournament in the very same region of Greece!

The French meanwhile are shooting to add the 2008 hardware to their titles from 2006, 2000 and 1992 and silver in 1996.

Vitoldas Masalskis's 2008 Lithuanians have two of the best low-post players in the tournament in the star tandem of Tautvydas Slezas and Donatas Motiejunas - who are first (12.7 rpg) and fourth (10.5), respectively, in rebounding in Amaliada and Pyrgos.

Coming into the semis, France were out-rebounded by 22 and 11 rebounds in their two losses while winning the battle of the boards by an average of 4.8 rebounds in their four wins. Philippe Ory's team is the poorest offensive rebounding team in the tourament and Alexis Tanghe leads the side with 6.5 rebounds a contest.

And the distinct advantage is not lost on Lithuanian point guard Augustas Peciukevicius, who said: "We have two very strong power forwards and centers in Motiejunas and Slezas. So we will try to give them the ball as much as we can. And they will just do what they do best."

Peciukevicius, however, will have a big test in stopping the French in doing what they do best - having playmaker Andrew Albicy lead them on the break. Albicy's tournament-best 3.8 steals per game gets Ory's team out and running and Albicy knows how to find the right man, dishing out 5.5 assists - also the highest mark in the event.

"(Albicy) is one of their leaders. So if we can stop him, it will be okay. If not, then it will be very hard," Peciukevicius said of his main task.

Lithuania played France in a friendly just before the tournament and lost by three points. So the teams know each other well - and fans can expect a good battle.


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