SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) – Turkey shook the Saitama Super Arena with an incredible fightback at the end of regulation before beating Lithuania in overtime at the FIBA World Championship on Thursday.
Just minutes after an earthquake hit Saitama – it registered 4.8 on the Richter scale - Turkey showed the kind of resilience that helped them make an improbable run to the quarter-finals after receiving a wild card to play in the event.
With both sides out of medal contention, Turkey won the intermediate round game 95-84 over Lithuania and will now play in the fifth/sixth place game against France or Germany.
Trailing 74-69 following a Darius Songaila lay-up, Engin Atsur scored on a lay-up to cut the deficit to three for Turkey.
Linas Kleiza missed one of two from the line for Lithuania, and Ender Arslan made a free throw after being fouled by Mantas Kalnietis with 13 seconds to play to make it 75-72 in favour of the Baltic giants.
Arslan, whose two free throws gave Turkey a 76-74 win over Lithuania on the opening day of Group C action in Hamamatsu, missed with his second attempt.
But he chased down the long rebound in the right corner and launched a three-pointer which fell through the rim to level the contest at 75-75 with nine seconds left.
"I just grabed the ball and tossed it up there and God helped me," Arslan said.
Lithuania tried to carry the ball up the floor, but 19-year-old point guard Kalnietis lost the ball out of bounds.
Turkey had seven seconds left, but Ermal Kurtoglu missed a shot at the end of regulation and the game went to the extra period.
In the overtime, Kurtoglu scored with a short jumper and a three-pointer to make it 80-75.
Lithuania’s Arvydas Macijauskas closed the gap to 81-80 with a pair from the charity
stripe, but Ersan Ilyasova got hot.
He replied with a jumper and then came up with a steal and passed ahead to Kurtoglu who dunked on a breakaway for an 85-81 lead.
Ilyasova later dunked with two hands after catching an alley-oop pass from Arslan.
“I think we played our hearts out and we deserved the win because we worked very hard from the beginning of the preparations in early July and basically we've been away from home for about 50 days,” Ilyasova said.
“But it's worth it. When you come here and you're able to play for fifth place, it's really worth it.”
Lithuania have missed the play of point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius over the past two years, and never more than against Turkey.
They turned the ball over 28 times in the game, and lost it in those crucial moments near the end.
Kurtoglu had a game-high 24 points and Arslan added 18 for Turkey while Songaila led Lithuania with 17.
Robertas Javtokas, the Lithuania center, said: “The way we're playing right now, we're going to have to fix a lot of things if we want to finish seventh.”
By Jeff Taylor