Lithuania, Ukraine, France win at Euro champs
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — France, Lithuania and Serbia advanced to the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship, with France and Lithuania winning their games Friday and Serbia going through despite a loss to Ukraine.
France cruised past Latvia 102-91 and Lithuania downed Belgium 86-67. France’s victory also cleared the way for Serbia and Lithuania to advance.
Pooh Jeter carried Ukraine to an 82-75 victory over Serbia and revived his team’s hopes of also making the quarterfinals, depending on the results of the final second-round day.
The American-born point guard scored 20 points and made several key baskets with the game on the line as Ukraine bounced back from a 34-point loss to Latvia.
“The team effort was what won the game for us,” said Jeter, who is the brother of U.S. sprinter Carmelita Jeter. “Latvia really punched us and caught us off-balance. But going against a powerhouse like Serbia we knew that we could win it. Everybody else doubted us. Everybody else counted us out. But we as a team believed that we could get this win.”
Maxym Korniyenko added 21 points and had eight rebounds for Ukraine.
Serbia is now 3-1 and Ukraine 2-2. Serbia plays France and Ukraine meets Lithuania in their final second-round games, while Latvia meets Belgium and needs to win to have a chance of going through.
France is also 3-1 while Latvia fell to 2-2.
Alexis Ajinca scored 25 points for France, which led by as many as 22 before slowing down in the last quarter to allow Latvia to come within nine. But Tony Parker kept the gap safe to finish with 23 points, while Nicolas Batum added 19 and 10 rebounds.
“We controlled the game but they never gave up,” Ajinca said.
Dairis Bertans led all scorers by getting 28 for Latvia.
“We trailed by 20 at halftime and against a team such as France it’s hard to come back from such a margin,” Latvia guard Janis Blums said. “But we are still alive.”
Jeter hit a 3-pointer to end the third quarter with a nine-point Ukraine lead, which increased to 11 at the start of the fourth.
With Serbia trying to close the gap, Jeter sank two consecutive 3-pointers, made a jumper and stole the ball before making one of two free throws. That left Ukraine up by eight with 1:05 on the clock and although Nemanja Bjelica made a 3, Ukraine held on to win.
“We knew that if we wanted to win we had to play our best game at both ends of the court,” Ukraine coach Mike Fratello said. “Today we had the energy and the effort and we came back from the embarrassment against Latvia.”
NBA center Jonas Valanciunas scored 12 points and grabbed 10 rebounds to lead Lithuania, which improved to 3-1 in the second round and looks likely to clinch one of the top four places in its group.
“We used our big guys real well and that was the key,” said Lithuania power forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who added 12 points and eight rebounds.
Jonathan Tabu led Belgium with 15 points.
Lithuania pulled down 13 more rebounds than Belgium and scored 40 points in the paint against 22 for the Belgians.
“We missed some open shots at the beginning but we knew the scoring would come,” Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlauskas said.
Serbia paid the price for 11 turnovers and for missing 12 of 24 free throws. Ukraine scored 15 points off Serbia’s turnovers.
“We were fortunate. Things happen on the court, like they drop the ball at half court, that you can’t explain,” Fratello said.
Bjelica, who led Serbia with 22 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, acknowledged that his team had underestimated Ukraine after its big loss to Latvia.
“And Jeter gave us a lot of problems, he hit a lot of easy baskets,” Bjelica said.
Serbia coach Duda Ivkovic said his team “lost confidence and failed to react in a proper way.”
“To miss 12 free throws is unbelievable. We need games to gain experience and we must not underestimate anyone,” the veteran coach said.
Serbia is the youngest team in the tournament, with nine players making their debut.