By Kevin Anselmo
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.
“For the second consecutive night, we proved that we could play with energy,” Lithuanian head coach Antanas Sireika said.
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.