A strong start, solid defense and a significant rebounding advantage were the ingredients for Lithuania’s 88-71 win over Italy in the teams’ quarter-final round match-up.
Lithuania, with a 2-0 record in the quarter-final round, is now one win away from qualifying for the semi-finals. They can also advance tonight if Greece defeats France.
Lithuania went on an early 7-0 run and led 12-5 with 6:52 in the first quarter. From that point on, Italy would get no closer than six points for the rest of the game.
|Lithuania's rebounding advantage was a key to their victory.|
A significant factor in the win was Lithuania’s decisive 51-23 advantage in rebounding.
Marius Valukonis and Pranas Skurdauskas were huge on the boards, tallying 13 and 15 rebounds respectively, which combined was more than the entire Italian team.
Piedro Aradori of Italy led all scorers with 31 points. His three-pointer with 6:52 to go in the third quarter cut the deficit to six at 45-39.
Lithuania would let Italy get no closer and a Zygimantas Janavicius’ three-pointer with 2:32 to go in the third once again gave the Baltic giants a double-digit lead.
Trailing 63-51 going into the fourth, Italy did little too help their cause by scoring just six points over the first five and half minutes of the quarter.
A three-pointer by Paulius Kleiza just inside the four-minute mark gave Lithuania an insurmountable 15-point cushion.
“I think we played with a lack of energy because we played so hard yesterday against France,” said Lithuanian head coach Rutjanis Paulauskas.
“But we did enough to win this important game.”
It has to be an encouraging sign for Lithuania to easily defeat Italy with a lack of energy and also without a strong offensive game from leading scorer Martynas Gecevicius.
Entering play averaging 18 points a contest and coming off a 31-point performance against France yesterday, Gecevicius was held to eight points.
Valukonis picked up the slack and led the way with 21 points and Skurdauskas added 20.
“Italy watched our game yesterday and really focused on trying to stop Gecevicius,” said Paulauskas.
“But that’s okay because we have very good team chemistry and other guys stepped up.”