By David Hein
Anete Jekabsone-Zogota collected 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals to lead Latvia to a convincing 76-46 victory over Lithuania in the Group E qualifying round.
Ieva Kublina added 16 points and Liene Jansone and Ieva Tare each chipped in 10 points off the bench as the Latvians improved to 2-1 in the group and the 1997 title-winners Lithuania dropped to 1-2.
Latvia led by 12 points at half-time and pushed the advantage to 23 points in the third quarter to put away their Baltic neighbours, who were led by Iveta Marcauskaite's 18 points
and 14 from Agne Ciudariene.
|The Latvian fans were out in force to support their team.|
The Latvians out-rebounded Lithuania 41-27 while holding them to 34% shooting (17-of-50) and forcing 19 turnovers.
Ainars Zvirgzdins's side shot 47% for the game and committed just 12 turnovers - matching their tournament-best average.
"We prepared really well for this game. We played great defense, and that's what we have to continue to do for the rest of the tournament," said Jekabsone-Zogota.
Ciudariene struggled to find a reason for her team's showing: "We were sleeping in today's game. I don't know what happened to us. We played very bad defense and offense and clearly we must improve considering next opponent is the Czech Republic."
Latvia pulled ahead 7-2 only to have Lithunia score seven straight points to grab the lead 9-7 on Marcauskaite's three-pointer with 4:24 remaining in the first.
But the Latvians finished the first quarter on an 8-0 run, combining tough defense and two long bombs and a lay-up by Jekabsone-Zogota to lead 15-9 after one period.
Gunta Basko's basket made it 19-9 and completed the 12-0 run, which finally ended when Ciudariene scored Lithuania's first points in 6:55.
Algirdas Paulauskas's side trimmed the margin to five points - 23-18 - but Latvia closed the half on a 6-0 spurt to lead 35-23 going into the locker-room.
The Latvians proved to be a class better, executing their offense more proficiently and continually extending the lead up to 23 points at the end of three quarters - 57-34.
The Lithuanians trimmed the margin to 21 points - 65-44 - on Ela Briedyte's three-pointer with four minutes remaining, but Latvia drained three long bombs down the stretch to win by 30 points on Santa Dreimane's trey in the final minute.
Lithuania next face defending champions Czech Republic while Latvia take on Belgium.