HAMAMATSU (FIBA World Championship
) - Turkey will go into the final day of Group C undefeated after a 76-69 triumph over Qatar but the Asian team earned some respect after mounting a courageous comeback.
Already assured of a place in the eight-finals in Saitama after victories over Lithuania, Brazil and Australia, Turkey rested Serkan Erdogan and Ibrahim Kutluay with the guards carrying knocks.
They still managed to open up a 65-39 lead with 2:27 left in the third quarter but instead of pressing home the advantage, Turkey allowed Joey Stiebing's Qatar to keep the contest alive until the final minute.
Qatar went on a 13-0 run to pull to within 65-52 at the start of the fourth quarter, and they continued to chip away until the scoreboard read 74-69 with 48 seconds remaining after Ali Turki Ali's third three-ball.
With a large section of the Hamamatsu Arena crowd suddenly firmly behind underdogs Qatar, Turkey used all of the shot clock on their next possession before Ermal Kurtoglu missed from long range.
Qatar rebounded, but their hopes evaporated when Saad Ali's attempted three hit the rim and fell into the hands off Kerem Gonlum.
"It was the closest we were able to play someone," Stiebing said. "Any time we can play against a quality opponent like Turkey, it helps us.
"We're not going to face teams like them in our zone.
"I hope our team can pick up a few things from them and learn from it.
"It was a tough game to play," admitted Kurtoglu. "We knew they were well coached, but are a little inexperienced.
"I think overall, we're in good shape."
"I hope to see all of the players tomorrow ready for the game," said Bogdan Tanjevic.
Engin Atsur, who will be a senior at North Carolina State this season, led Turkey with 12 points while fellow youngster Cenk Akyol and Ender Arslan each weighed in with 10.
The game's leading scorer was Erfan Saeed, who had 20 points on eight of 14 shooting, including two of 14 from the arc.
"We're learning a lot," Erfan said. "This is our first time qualified for the World Championship." By Jeff Taylor