Day 1 Men: LTU 78 - ANG
ATHENS, (Olympics) Using its great experience and the inside strength, Lithuania beat Angola 78-73 on Day One of the Olympic mens basketball tournament in Helliniko Indoor Arena.
The European champions were led by the African champions for 27 minutes, but when they took the lead 45-46 with two free throws by Darius SONGAILA, they never looked back.
Using zone defence for several minutes at the beginning of the last period and taking advantage of the inside trio (E. ZUKAUSKAS, LAVRINOVIC, SONGAILA), Lithuania escaped 58-69 midway through the last quarter to finally win.
Eurelijus ZUKAUSKAS had a double double of 15 points and 11 rebounds, while Kristof LAVRINOVIC scored 15 points and grabbed 9 rebounds and SONGAILA contributed 7 points offering NBA experience.
Star of the Lithuanian team was Sarunas JASIKEVICIUS once again.
The Lithuanian leader scored 14 points, grabbed 7 rebounds and shared 6 assists in another complete performance, while Arvydas MACIJAUSKAS contributed 10 points and 6 boards for the winners.
ANGOLA was not an easy opponent for Lithuania.
The African champions surprised Lithuania leading the game by 16-8 and 24-12 during the first period.
A total of 15 out of 29 threes helped the team control the game for long stretches and prove to be a dangerous opponent until the final minute.
Miguel LUTONDA led all scorers with 17 points (plus 4 rebounds and 6 assists), while Joaquim GOMES contributed 14 points, but suffered by foul trouble (4 fouls in 16 minutes).
GOMES cut the margin at 73-76 with 15 seconds to go, but JASIKEVICIUS assured the domination for Lithuania with two free throws.
Palma livid at Officiating
ATHENS, (Olympics) - Angola coach Mario Palma launched a blistering attack on the referees after his side's narrow 78-73 defeat to Lithuania on Sunday.
The Africans led by as many as 13 points in the first half but eventually lost to the European champions, who scored 32 points from 50 attempts at the free throw line.
Angola, whistled for 37 fouls compared to just 20 for Lithuania, took just 12 free throws and made six.
"We could not win this game with so many fouls called against us," Palma fumed in the press conference.
"Most of these 37 fouls were away from the ball, not on shots or penetrations.
"Lithuania stayed in the game because of the 50 free throws they shot after fouls nobody saw.
"The game was called by two very bad and inexperienced referees."
The game was refereed by France's Chantai Julien and China's Li Jun Ma.
The Lithuanians took their first lead with 2:51 left in the third quarter when Darius Songaila of the Sacramento Kings made a pair of free throws for a 46-45 advantage.
Shortly after, Kisistof Lavrinovic put them in front for good at 50-48 with a basket down low, point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius feeding the big man for one his six assists.
Angola didn't win a game at the Sydney Olympics but they beat Canada and China at FIBA's 2002 World Championships.
Seven Angolans made at least one shot from behind the arc and overall they were 15 of 29.
The difference for Lithuania was their ability to rebound, and to get to the free throw line.
Antanas Sireika's side won the rebounding battle 47-21.
Eurelijus Zukauskas had 15 points and 11 rebounds, and Lavrinovic also scored 15 and grabbed nine boards to lead Lithuania.
Lithuania point guard Jasikevicius, who played collegiately at Maryland and is now one of the biggest stars in Europe with Israeli champions Maccabi Tel Aviv, had 14 points and seven rebounds.
Angola got a game-high 17 points from Miguel Lutonda.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens exclusively for FIBA
Joaquim GOMES (ANG) - Forward/Centre
On the performance of his team:
"We really wanted to come here to Athens, compete in the Olympics and show the rest of the world what African basketball can achieve and prove that we are the African champions. I think that our performance in the tournament against the European champions has made us quite optimistic about the upcoming games. We don't want come back to Angola without winning some games over here."
Miguel LUTONDA (ANG) - Guard
On his personal perfomance:
"My teammates helped me a lot by giving me open space to shoot. I tried to do my best in order give to our opponents the message that Angola doesn't have to be underestimated from the other teams, because we can create many surprises."
|Press conference quotes:|
Joaquim GOMES (ANG) - player
"I have to congratulate my teammates for the heart and passion they showed, as well as our coach for being there for us.
"Its bad we didnt win the game, but we proved why we are here. Angola is ready to make a step forward. We played well in the last World Championships and won some games.
"Our lack in size is our biggest problem, but we can shoot, can play defense, and only need some improvement to get there."
Mario PALMA (ANG) - coach
On the game and the fouls called against his team:
"We could not win this game with so many fouls called against us. Most of these 37 fouls were away from the ball, not on shots or penetrations. Lithuania stayed in the game due to 50 free throws they shot after fouls nobody saw. The game was called by two very bad and inexperienced referees. We played a great game, we were smart and performed well defensively against the European Champions."
"Before the Tournament, I would pick Lithuania as a medal favourite, but from what I see right now they must improve a lot, because they are not playing that well. Of course, JASIKEVICIUS is a great player, and when he started playing well offensively we had a lot of problems."
On the next games:
"Our aim is to win a game. I dont know which one, but the sure thing is that no one can afford to take us lightly any more. They have to be prepared to play against us."
Antanas SIREIKA (LTU) - coach
"It was not a good game, but this is the reality about premieres in big tournaments. It is always tough to play against teams that have nothing to lose. Maybe our players overestimated their skills a little, but at least we won and I am satisfied."
Saulius STOMBERGAS (LTU) - player, team captain
"Its really hard to play at 09: 00 hrs; its perhaps the first time in my life that I have started a game so early. We started bad, but concentrated on defense and managed to win against a very good team like Angola."
Source: Athens News Service