By David Hein
Just when Lithuania looked as if they had recovered from their injuries and defections and were nearing a repeat of their EuroBasket 2003 title, they couldn't find their top game.
On Thursday, the defending champs bowed out of EuroBasket 2005 with a 63-47 loss to France in a style less than worthy of a champion.
"There are too many emotions right now," said Robertas Javtokas, one of the very few Lithuanian players who talked to the media.
"We looked really tired. In the first five minutes, you could see that we were tired."
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Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika said: "Our young players were very nervous. We just couldn't score."
He also congratulated the French, who lost to Lithuania in the 2003 semi-finals in Stockholm and were out for revenge.
"You also have to congratulate France," Sireika added. "They played very well. I guess they're even now."
The title-holders made just two of 20 three-pointers in the game and were out-rebounded 47-35 at the Belgrade Arena.
"We looked lost out on the court," Javtokas said.
"This was our worst game since we started preparaing for this tournament," Lithuanian guard Vidas Ginevicius admitted.
"You only have to look at the statistics to see where we were. And the worst thing of all is, this was our worst game in a game that meant everything."
Ginevicius cried after the defeat.
France boast the outstanding strong and athletic Boris Diaw, Florent and Mickael Pietrus and Tony Parker.
Javtokas said: "I don't think they were more athletic. I just think they played better tonight."
Javtokas also apologised to the Lithuanian fans - so well known for their support of the national team.
"It's really bad for the fans," he said. "And I wish they could have seen the real Lithuania team."
Lithuania play Russia on Friday in a classification match for a chance to earn a berth at FIBA World Championships 2006.