|04 July 2012|
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
|Lithuania claimed an important win over Venezuela in their Olympic Qualifying Tournament opener. |
Europe's teams have had to cross the Atlantic to play at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) but they're still proving to be extremely hard to beat.
Lithuania thrived in Caracas and shot down hosts Venezuela on Tuesday night in their first game.
Roared on by the home crowd and led by Greivis Vasquez, the Venezuelans threw everything they had at Kestutis Kemzura's team yet the Baltic side held firm throughout.
Linas Kleiza poured in 19 of his game-high 28 points in the first half as Lithuania built a 49-36 lead.
Venezuela, behind an inspired Vasquez and his 24 points, closed the gap to eight midway through the third quarter but Lithuania stayed on top, excelling with their defense, long-range shooting, penetration and overall scrappy, hustling play.
The 18-point victory has set the European team up nicely in the OQT in case of a three-way tie.
Lithuania face Nigeria on Wednesday, with the Africans having lost their first game to Venezuela on Monday by just two points.
Kemzura drew the ire of the crowd and the entire Venezuelan bench when deciding to call a timeout with four seconds remaining and his team leading by 18.
The attempt to get the last basket was to help their goal differential in case of a tie-breaker.
Earlier in the day, F.Y.R. of Macedonia got on track with a resounding victory over New Zealand.
Bo McCalebb poured in 23 points and handed out 11 assists and Pero Antic scored 17 while also grabbing 10 rebounds as the European team won, 84-62.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia had lost their first game to Angola, 88-84, but can now be assured of a spot in the Quarter-Finals if the Africans beat New Zealand on Wednesday.
Russia and Greece, winners of their opening games on Monday, were idle on Tuesday but return to the court on Wednesday with important clashes with the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, respectively.
The winners of those games will clinch first place in their respective groups.
Should Russia finish first in Group C and F.Y.R. of Macedonia come in second in Group D, the two sides will meet in an all-European Quarter-Final with the side that loses going home.