USA Falls to Lithuania at World Championship
July 30, 1998
ATHENS, Greece -- Jimmy Oliver's (Ciuda De Huelva, Spain / Purdue '91) would-be game-winning three at the buzzer rolled in then out and Lithuania held on to collect an 84-82 victory over the USA Men's World Championship Team Thursday night in Athens, Greece.
The loss dropped the USA's preliminary round record to 1-1 at the 13th FIBA World Championship and snapped a 10-game USA World Championship winning streak, which started in 1990 in the bronze medal game and included eight wins in 1994 and a win in Wednesday's opener. The USA now needs a victory Friday over South Korea to insure itself of advancing on to the second round. South Korea fell to Brazil 76-73 Thursday to drop to 0-2.
"Obviously this was a disappointing game for us. We were very concerned about Lithuania's offensive talent and in the first half Lithuania dictated the tempo of the game. In the second half I was happy to see that we didn't give up; our defense was a lot better and we made them earn their baskets. But to Lithuania's credit, late in the game when the game was on the line, they made some real big points. We made some big plays also and I thought it was amazing the way things were going that we had a chance to win the game. As I told Jimmy Oliver, I'd put my money on him making that shot every time," said Rudy Tomjanovich, USA head coach.
"I expect this will affect us, but I want this to affect us in a very positive way. I told our team when we started in Chicago that we would have to become better with each experience we encountered along the way and we have to learn lessons from this.
"I thought we were getting some pretty good shots; some open looks, and we just couldn't buy a basket and I believe we were 2-for-13 from the three point line in the first half. I do think we are a solid shooting team, but in times like that defense your defense has to carry you and as I mentioned we were not playing good defense they were just running by us," added Tomjanovich.
"I think I had a good look at the basket...it just rattled in and out," stated Oliver on his game winning shot.
Lithuania hit 53.1 percent (17-32 FGs) of its shots in the first half while the USA struggled with its shooting. Connecting on just 39.5 percent (15-38 FGs) from the field, the U.S. made just 2-of-13 (15.4 percent) tries from three-point. The U.S. started quickly and with 15:11 left in the opening half led 10-7, however, Lithuania put together a 11-2 run to move out in front 18-12 with 12:28 to play in the half. With the Americans trailing 20-16 with 11:32 to go in the half, Lithuania went on a 14-4 offensive run to take command 34-20 with 8:13 remaining in the half. Going on to lead by as many as 15 points in the half, Lithuania at halftime enjoyed a 13 point lead, 47-34.
With Jason Sasser (Sioux Falls Skyforce / Caja San Fernando, Spain / Texas Tech '96) accounting for seven points, the U.S. outscored Lithuania 17-7 to start the second half and with 14:22 to play, following a three-point play by Oliver, the U.S. had closed to within three, 54-51. But Lithuania countered with an 11-3 offensive run as Virginijus Praskevicius scored six points and Lithuania went back ahead 65-51 with 8:48 to play.
The U.S. fought its way back into the contest and following a pair of free throws by guard Michael Hawkins (Olympiakos, Greece / Xavier '95) with 4:37 to play, the gap stood at 74-70. Former Seton Hall standout Arturas Karnisovas scored at the other end for Lithuania, but following David Wood (Rockford Lightning / Unicaja Malaga, Spain / Nevada Reno '87) three-pointer with 3:56 left, the U.S. trailed 76-73. The two sides swapped points and with 1:08 to play, the U.S. lagged behind 80-75. A Hawkins three-pointer with 54 seconds left pulled the United States back within two, 80-78, but Lithuania's Praskevicius scored on a drive and after making a free throw to complete the three-point play after being fouled on the play, Lithuania seemed to have the game in hand, 83-78 with 22.3 seconds left. But Oliver nailed another three with 13 second to go to make it 83-81, and when Karnisovas made just the second of two free throws with 8.1 seconds left, the U.S. trailed 84-81 and still had hope.
Lithuania fouled Hawkins with just 2.5 seconds to go and before he could get off a three, and after making his first free throw to put the score at 84-82, Hawkins purposely missed the second attempt and the U.S. was awarded possession after the ball rolled out of bounds in front of Lithuania's bench with only 0.5 seconds showing on the clock. Brad Miller (Purdue '98) inbounded the ball to an open Oliver at the top of the key, and Oliver's three rolled in then out, giving Lithuania the 84-82 win.
Oliver finished with a team high 18 points, Hawkins added 16 and Sasser finished with 13 for the United States. Miller led the USA's rebounding with a game best eight rebounds. Karnisovas, who tallied 20 points alone in the second half, finished with a game best 29 points.
In Friday's Group C final preliminary round games, Lithuania (2-0) will meet Brazil (1-1) at 3:15 p.m. (Athens time) and the USA will face South Korea at 5:30 p.m. (Athens time).
"I did see half of today's game between South Korea and Brazil (Brazil won 76-73) and they (South Korea) present problems with their outside shooting. We're going to be working until late tonight getting together our game plan," added Tomjanovich.
The 13th FIBA Men's World Championship are being held July 29-August 9 in Athens with teams from 16 countries competing for the gold medal. The United States continues its world Championship preliminary round play versus South Korea on July 31. Second Round Group play is slated to be conducted August 2-4, with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals action to be held August 7-9.
1998 FIBA MEN'S WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP
Thursday, July 30
Friday, July 31
Preliminary - Second Round
+Group E+Group F
Sunday, August 2
Monday, August 3
Tuesday, August 4
Friday, August 7
Saturday, August 8
Sunday, August 9
NOTE: Game times listed are Athens time, which is 7 hours ahead of EDT
Official Gear of the