Olympics Basketball 2012: Lithuania Squeaks Past Tunisia

In a game that wasn’t nearly as one-sided as the final score suggests, Lithuania beat Tunisia 76-63 to advance to the quarterfinals at the 2012 London Olympics.

While the Lithuanians reached their desired destination, the route they took was a rocky one. They were dominated for much of the game, trailing by as much as 14 in the third quarter. Thanks to the heroics of Darius Songaila off the bench, though, they were able to charge back, taking their first lead of the night late in the third. After that, thee was no stopping the men in green, who outscored Tunisia 26-9 in the final period. Songaila poured in 13 points in just over 12 minutes, while Renaldas Seibutis chipped in 10 critical points, all of which came in the fourth quarter.

The Tunisians received an inspired effort from big man Salah Mejri, who put up 16 points, 13 rebounds and 4 blocks. He was unstoppable in the post during the first three quarters, finishing over the Lithuanian front line at will. Unfortunately, the 7’1″ center tired down the stretch, and he was ineffective during Tunisia’s nightmarish fourth quarter.

As the adopted Olympic team of Raptors Rapture, we’re happy to see the Lithuanians advance. It just would have been nice to see the two Toronto Raptors contribute. Jonas Valanciunas was effective in setting screens and grabbing rebounds, but his inexperience was apparent as he racked up 3 turnovers in limited minutes. More surprisingly, Linas Kleiza—who was averaging 18 points per game coming in—mustered just 4 points on 2-9 shooting. He missed each of his 3 trey-balls, and he failed to reach the free-throw line, a testament to his lack of aggression.

Despite the Raps’ struggles, Lithuania was able to pull off the comeback. Thanks to Songaila, Seibutis and Sarunas Jasikevicius, Lithuania will advance to Wednesday’s quarterfinals, where they will likely take on Russia.

Austin Green is the editor of Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.

Tags: 2012 Olympics Jonas Valanciunas Linas Kleiza Lithuania Salah Mejri Tunisia

  • Jeffrey Thompson

    I’m also rooting for the Lithuanians, and I am sure there is a reason for JV not playing. It’s certainly not for basketball reasons because it does not make any sense for a coach to purposely sit a player than can help his team win. My guess is that there are outside forces thatr assuring that JV does not play and the probable source of that is Bryan Colangelo.

    Colangelo has a lot riding on this young big man and the last thing he wants is to have his prized lottery pick injured before the season starts. If that means him sitting out the Olympics, then so be it. I am sure that Raptors fans may not like it, but deep down they certainly agree with it. Sure, it would be nice to see Jonas show off if stuff, but what if he gets injured.

    That’s why I don’t see Lithuania going past the quarterfinals because to do so, they will need Jonas and with the coach hell bent on not playing him, that is not going to happen.

    • http://twitter.com/raptorsrapture Raptors Rapture

      Yeah, you may be right about BC’s impact on his playing time. However, Lithuania was simply better without Valanciunas on the floor today. Like I said above, he was effective in setting screens and pulling down rebounds, but he was a liability with the ball in his hands. Lithuania was getting crushed when he was in, and after he had been sitting for awhile, they finally made their surge. I’m not saying their early deficit was entirely JV’s fault, and they’re certainly not always a better team when he’s on the bench. That was just the case today. Even when he struggles, though, his talent and potential is apparent. If Raps fans have a little patience, they will be thrilled with what he brings to the table.