Russia, Lithuania Battle For Spot In Finals

By Jeff Taylor

Lithuania and Russia head into their semi-final showdown on the back of narrow wins, the former edging Croatia on Friday to remain unbeaten at the EuroBasket and the latter scraping their way past France to reach the last four for the first time in 10 years.

The Lithuanians, gold medalists in 2003 when the tournament was staged in Sweden, are

Nikita Morgunov (Russia)
Nikita Morgunov has been key to Russia's success.
undefeated but they will not be as rested as their opponents who played the French on Thursday.

“That’s okay,” said Lithuania power forward Darius Songaila. “They’ve had two days to worry about this game, while we have to just go out and play.”

Against Croatia, Songaila and Co. did not play at their best but still managed to win and that’s  the sign of a championship-calibre team.

However, Russia can also play much better than they did against France as well, and now that the pressure is off of reaching the semi-finals for the first time in 10 years, David Blatt’s team will be loose and confident.

Last result: Lithuania beat Croatia 74-72, Russia defeated France 75-71

Key Match-up: Victor Kryapa v Ramunas Siskauskas. Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa did his best to contain Siskauskas, and that helped his team stay in the game until the very end. If Kryapa, who has had a great EuroBasket, gets the assignment for Russia - and he may because of his quickness and size - Russia will have a better chance of springing the upset.

Key Stat: Free throw shooting has cost teams like France and Croatia dearly in their quarter-final defeats, but the Lithuanians were 22 of 26 (84.6%) in their win over Croatia.

X-Factor: Nikita Morgunov. Has there been a more important player for Russia than center Morgunov, who comes of the bench to provide scoring, rebounding and defense?

Speaking out: “Against Russia, it's going to be a tough game, no question. Then again, from now on it's going to be extremely tough. We are in the semi-finals of the European Championship. We have 24 hours to recover. We will see if I am able to play more than I did today. I hope so but we will have to wait and see how my leg responds." – Lithuania point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius.


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