HAMAMATSU (FIBA World Championship
) - Rising star Mantas Kalnietis sparked Lithuania on a big third-quarter run as the Baltic giants defeated Australia 78-57 in an important Group C game.
Aryvdas Macijauskas poured in a game-high 20 points but it was the explosive 19-year-old Kalnietis who made certain the Lithuanians would win for the second time in Hamamatsu to i improve their chances of advancing to Saitama for the eight-finals.
Five minutes into the third quarter with Lithuania leading 44-39, Kalnietis pulled up and made a jump shot just inside the arc.
Seventeen seconds later and the Zalgiris Kaunas youngster picked off a pass from Andrew Bogut at mid-court and cruised in for a two-handed dunk.
The baskets triggered an 11-0 surge, capped by Ksystof Lavrinovic's free throws to give Lithuania a 57-39 advantage.
Australia never recovered.
The blowout loss added to a disappointing week for the Boomers who have not received much reward for outstanding play.
They were narrowly beaten by Turkey on the second day of the tournament and on Tuesday, they suffered a 72-69 defeat to Greece, with the European team making two three-pointers in the final nine seconds, including the game-winner as time expired.
Brad Newley, who had 15 points for Australia, admitted the defeat to Greece had taken its toll.
"After last night, it was very emotional," he said. "It took a lot out of the guys mentally and physically.
"I guess we ran out of gas. Tomorrow, we have to come out and play like it's our grand final."
The Australians will go into the final group game against Qatar with a chance to finish in the top four which they must do to advance to the eight-finals in Saitama.
Lithuania have two wins going into their game against Brazil while the South Americans, who play Greece later on Wednesday, have just one victory like Australia.
A tie-breaker may be required to determine which two of Lithuania, Australia and Brazil advance to the next round.
Greece and Turkey have already clinched their places.
As for Kalnietis, his baskets were the only two that he scored in just over 29 minutes but he also had four rebounds, two assists and three steals.
There is no doubt he has taken over the starting point guard position for Lithuania with Giedrus Gustas relegated to back-up status.
Macijauskas, meanwhile, was six of 13 from the floor, including two of seven from the arc.
He made all six of his free throws but Lithuania struggled from the line as a team, making 13 of 22 (59%).
Australia coach Brian Goorjian has been extremely unlucky.
Late in the game against Greece, a techical was called against his bench which led to Greek free throws and on Wednesday, he was hit with another right before half-time.
Only, he says, he was given one because of a misunderstanding.
"I may be the first coach ever to get a technical for yelling `clock'," he said.
Goorjian spoke to the referee before leaving for the changing room.
He did admit that Lithuania had been deserving winners.
"Their physicality and size got to us over the course of the game," he said. "I just felt they wore us down.
"I think the disappointment from the Turkey game, and Greece game, has changed our fortunes in the tournament.
"Today, we had no chance. They outclassed us.
"After tonight's game, we have to feel fortunate even to get in. To finish ahead of Brazil would be fortunate.
"We just have to concentrate on just trying to win the next game, and hope Lithuania can keep playing as well as they are (against Brazil)."
Australia hurt themselves in turnovers. In they first half, they were guilty of losing the ball 17 times yet still led 28-27 after a three-pointer from Newley.
Over the next 2:33, however, Lithuania went on an 8-0 run to claim a 35-28 lead at the break.
Andrew Bogut had 12 points, four rebounds, one steal and a blocked shot but went to the bench early in the second half looking tired. By Jeff Taylor