Turkey rallied from a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter and held on despite a furious run by Lithuania in the closing minutes to prevail 73-70 and take top honours in Group C.
Can M Mutaf made a pair of clutch three-pointer in the final quarter to help the 2005 champions of this competition finish the group stages undefeated.
The 192cm guard, who struggled for much of the first half a night after hitting seven of 11
three-pointers in a win against Ukraine, connected from long range with just over seven minutes left to play to put Mustafa Derin’s men ahead 56-55.
|Can M. Mutaf struggled in the first half for Turkey but hit some big shots down the stretch. |
Mutaf hit again from beyond the arc with 3:20 left in the game as Turkey took its first double-digit lead of the game, 66-56.
Lithuania then used a 14-5 run to cut the deficit to 71-70 on a pair of Augustas Peciukevicius free-throws with six seconds left.
But Genco Dilik then coolly sank two shots from the charity stripe and Deividas Nazarovas missed a potential game tying three-pointer at the buzzer.
‘We hung in there and we’re glad to finish the game with a win against Lithuania who were our toughest opponents in the group,’ said Dilik, who finished with a team-high 13 points.
‘It’s a good preparation for the next game.’
‘Winning the group is a big bonus because it means we have a better draw for the next round.’
Before the game, both teams were already assured of a place in the qualifying round, but neither side took the game lightly.
Ovidijus Varanauskas, who finished with a game-high 24 points, scored five of his team’s first six baskets to help them edge ahead 16-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Turkey only trailed by one point at the break, 29-28, despite Mutaf’s shooting woes which saw him connect on only two of his 11 attempts in the first half, including 0/6 from beyond the arc.
Lithuania jumped ahead in the third quarter and took a 47-38 lead on a lay up by Varanauskas with under three minutes left in the period.
But Turkey fought its way back and only trailed by two, 50-48, heading into the final frame.
Afterwards, Lithuania head coach Marius Linartas found it hard to deal with the loss.
‘Today we played like we were a year younger than Turkey,’ he said.
‘They were the favourites in our group but we should have done better. I hope we play them again at some stage in the competition if it’s possible.’