|08 July 2012|
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
|Russia players applaud fans who made the trip to Venezuela, after their win over Nigeria Saturday. Now Russia want a medal at the Olympics, Aleksey Shved says|
Russia and Lithuania booked their places for the London Games with convincing victories at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) on Saturday night in Caracas, Venezuela.
Bronze-medal winners at EuroBasket 2011, Russia remained unbeaten at the OQT with an 85-77 victory over Nigeria while Lithuania pulled away from the Dominican Republic and won 109-83.
The Russians clinched a spot in the Olympics for the second time in a row with Aleksey Shved pouring in a game-high 22 points.
"I'm looking forward to everything about these Olympic Games," Shved said to FIBAEurope.com.
"Everyone in our team wants to take a medal.
"We've really been working for this."
Russia were overpowering against most of the teams in Caracas and while Nigeria did have their moments in a comeback attempt, victory never looked to be in doubt for David Blatt's team.
NO OLYMPICS WITHOUT LITHUANIA
Lithuania, meanwhile, kept their string of appearances at the Olympics alive.
|'I'm in ecstasy,' said Martynas Pocius about Lithuania preserving their perfect record of Olympic Games participation |
It dates back to 1992, when they appeared at the Barcelona Games after gaining independence.
Jonas Maciulis, who missed last year's EuroBasket on home soil while recovering from a serious knee injury, showed he was back to his best by pouring in a game-high 19 points against the Dominicans.
Linas Kleiza, having missed the EuroBasket while recovering from an injury as well, had a terrific OQT.
"It's special," Kleiza said to FIBAEurope.com, "but it's just the first step and we've got a lot of work to do to do good in the Olympics.
"There were a lot of tough teams here that we didn't know much about, so we expected it to be hard and it was."
While Russia didn't lose a game, Lithuania beat hosts Venezuela in a very hard clash in front of the home fans and then fell to Nigeria.
The Baltic side had a tricky Quarter-Final against Puerto Rico on Friday but prevailed.
While Maciulis and Kleiza are making return trips to the Summer Games, Martynas Pocius will go to an Olympics for the first time.
One of Lithuania's most consistent performers at the OQT, Pocius hit a couple of early three-balls to help the Baltic giants take the lead for good.
He finished with 12 points.
"I'm in ecstasy right now," Pocius said to FIBAEurope.com
"I'm really happy. I'm really glad we're here. Previous Lithuanian teams ... we didn't want to mess with the history.
"We didn't want to disappoint ourselves and we didn't want to disappoint our fans.
"It feels great to be going to the Olympics.
"Hopefully we can show our best basketball once we go out there."
Greece fell in an upset to Nigeria in Friday's Quarter-Finals, while F.Y.R. of Macedonia blew a 20-point lead against the Dominicans and were both eliminated from Olympic contention.
The Dominicans will face Nigeria on Sunday for the last qualifying spot to London.