By Kevin Anselmo
Lithuania will look to finish preliminary round play with a 3-0 record when they take on Bulgaria this evening at the Moraca Sports Center in Podgorica.
Lithuania, having already secured first place in Group B following Bulgaria's loss to Turkey last night, will look to win their ninth EuroBasket game in a row dating back to 2003. Against Croatia last night, Lithuania trailed throughout the first half, took the lead in the third quarter and dominated the fourth in route to an 85-67 win.
Underdog Bulgaria, playing in a EuroBasket for the first time since 1993, have made quite an impression in Group B after leading Croatia and Turkey for good portions of their games before ultimately losing nail-biters down the stretch. Bulgaria led Turkey by as many as 12 points in the fourth quarter, but the Turks rallied for a 94-89 overtime win. The road in EuroBasket for Bulgaria gets know easier as they take on the defending champions.
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“We'll give them everything we have,” Bulgarian head coach Rossen Barchovski said. “We'll try to forget the emotions from the last two games and do everything we can to leave our trace on this EuroBasket.”
“I expect a difficult game,” Lithuanian coach Antanas Sireika said. “We never underestimate our opponents.”
While a loss is a loss, there are many positives that can be taken away from Bulgaria's play in EuroBasket.
“We are a young and if the team continues to play the way it does, we will be in many more EuroBaskets in the future,” Bulgarian center Boyko Mladenov said.
Offensively, Lithuania has been led by Ramunas Siskauskas, who has averaged 19 points in his team's two wins. Todor Stoykov has provided valuable leadership and leads Bulgaria in scoring with 24 points per game.
Lithuania have defeated Bulgaria on two different occasions in the past, the most recent a 117-72 decision in 2002.