Lithuania proved they could also win coming from behind, defeating Croatia 85-67 in Group B Preliminary Round play in Podgorica.
One night after dominating Turkey from the opening tap, Lithuania trailed for almost the entire first half. Lithuania responded with a dominant fourth quarter, proving their new team can play under poise when trailing. In the final quarter, the Lithuanians outscored Croatia 28-15.
Ramunas Siskauskas led Lithuania in scoring for the second consecutive night, finishing with 18 points. His three-pointer with 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter increased Lithuania´s lead to eight and from there, Lithuania would never look back.
Paulius Jankunas added 16 for Lithuania, while Simas Jasaitis and Darjus Lavrinovic tallied 12 and 11 respectively.
“Only if we play as a team, one for all and all for one, can we achieve something in this competition,” Sireika said. “Tonight was an example of that. Everyone contributed.”
Lithuania have won eight consecutive EuroBasket games dating back to 2003 and can clinch first place in the group with a victory tomorrow evening against Bulgaria.
Croatia, one night after a lacklustre 88-84 win over Bulgaria, opened the game rejuvenated, jumping out to an eight-point first quarter lead thanks to a 10-1 run. But in the end, it was Lithuania´s fourth quarter that was the difference.
“In a five-minute span in the fourth quarter, the game was decided,” Croatian head coach Neven Spahija said.
“Our fourth quarter was a repeat of our first half against Bulgaria,” said Gordan Giricek, who finished with a team-high 19 points for Croatia. “We allowed too many open shots.”
Croatia will attempt to keep their chances for advancing alive tomorrow evening when they take on Turkey.
NOTES : After going with Vidas Ginevicius on Friday night, Sireika opted to start Mindaugas Lakauskis tonight. … Lithuania got 50 points from their bench, compared to 20 for Croatia.
Lithuania and Croatia will look to continue their winning ways when the two teams tip-off this evening at the Moraca Sports Center in Podgorica in the second day of preliminary round play.
Lithuania´s revamped squad posted a convincing 87-75 victory over Turkey last night. They hope to ride the momentum and build from last night´s victory.
“We still have a lot to improve on in this championship,” Lithuanian forward Robertas Javtokas said.
“I think it will be a difficult game,” Sireika said.
Croatia, who trailed after each the first three quarters of their 88-84 win over Bulgaria last night, will need a complete game to prevail against the defending EuroBasket champions.
“We will have to play better against Lithuania then we did last night,” Croatian head coach Neven Spahija said.
Both teams were offensively led by their shooting guards in their opening night victories. Ramunas Siskauskas scored 20 points for Lithuania, while Gordan Giricek led Croatia with 22.
Croatia´s defense struggled last night defending the perimeter as Bulgaria connected on 11 of 27 three-point field goals and allowed 21 first half points to Todor Stoykov. In the second half, Croatia held Stoykov to six points by putting increased pressure on the Bulgarian team captain. Croatia hope to continue this trend against Lithuania´s three point shooters, who went 9-for-23 against Turkey.
Lithuania and Croatia have matched up four previous times, the last time occurring in 1999. Lithuania has won three of those games.