Men's Olympic Qualifying Tournament : Day 3 round-up
By Dave Ryan
There will be no New Zealand men's team at the London Olympics despite their 68-64 win against Angola on day three at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
The result saw all three sides in Group D finish with 1-1 records, but the Tall Blacks fell short on goal average, having needed to win by 13 to assure themselves a place in the last eight.
Seventeen-year-old debutante Tai Webster led the way for the Tall Blacks with 21 points, including five-from-six three-pointers, but his side blew an 18-point second-quarter lead.
A 26-18 third period saw the Angolans - who are looking for a sixth straight Olympic appearance - claw their way back into the game, and they outscored New Zealand 12-10 in the final quarter to progress to the quarter-finals. Eduardo Mingas led the way for Angola with 17 points and ten rebounds.
Group B also finished as a three-way tie, with hosts Venezuela left watching with frustration as Nigeria's 86-80 win against Lithuania saw both teams go through to the quarter-finals, with the Lithuanians (who rested Darius Songaila and gave only 12 minutes to starter Paulius Jankus) finishing top of the group.
The African bronze medallists, who recorded a win against Great Britain in a warm-up game, saw their lead reached double figures on multiple occasions but the Lithuanians always answered, usually through Linas Kleiza who finished with 22 points.
Derrick Obasohan led the Nigerians with 20 points, including five-from-eight three-pointers, with Al Farouq Aminu (16 points, nine boards) and Tony Skinn (15 points, three assists) also playing key roles and it was Skinn who sunk the game-winning shot in the last minute.
Greece and Puerto Rico met to decide who took top spot in Group A, and it was the former who prevailed with a 98-84 win, thanks mainly to Vasileios Spanoulis who scored his side’s first 13 points on the way to a 27 points, five assist night.
Peter John Ramos' 15 points and seven rebounds kept Puerto Rico in touch throughout the game, but the Greek's 14-from-24 shooting from downtown proved the difference between the teams.
Finally, Russia ensured that all four European teams topped their groups, and are kept apart in the last eight with a physical 84-69 win over the Dominican Republic in the day's second game.
Former NBA man Andrei Kirilenko added 13 rebounds to his 16 points and 7 assists for the Russians as they won the battle of the boards 42-30, while forward Victor Khryapa finished with 14 points, six assists and five rebounds.
Atlanta Hawks' big man Al Horford continued his excellent tournament with 22 points on 10-from-13 shooting, adding nine rebounds and four assists. Once again he received good support from Jack-Michael Martinez who posted a 13 point, 12 rebound double-double.
The downside for Russia was an ankle injury to Denver Nuggets' centre Timofey Mozgov, leaving him in doubt for the remainder of the tournament.
The teams have Thursday off before the quarter-finals take place on Friday. It's arguably the key stage of the competition as the losers go home, while the winners have a second bite at a place in London 2012 if they lose in the semi-finals.
Russia and Angola start things off before Greece and Nigeria go head-to-head in the second game. FYR Macedonia will look to continue their fairytale rise through world basketball when they play Dominican Republic in game three before Lithuania and Puerto Rico wrap things up.
The semi-finals are on Saturday, with the winners qualifying for the Olympics, and the third spot at London up for grabs when the losers meet in Sunday's showdown.
For a summary of results and the schedule please click here