In a game that was at times too close to call, the Lithuanians made the bigger shots and held on for an 81-77 victory over an Italian squad that was itching to climb the upper echelons of European basketball once again.
Marco Belinelli will try to lead his Italy team to the knockout round of the FIBA Eurobasket Tournament and a berth in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
While many pundits expected that Lithuania would make it to the semifinal of the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket tournament, very few were able to predict that they would have to go through the wringer.
No one team clearly dominated the game, not even when Lithuania took a seven-point advantage after the first period behind Darjus Lavrinovic and Jonas Maciulis' hot shooting. Travis Diener opened the second quarter with five straight points as Italy pulled within 3, then Marco Belinelli and Andrea Cinciniari went toe-to-toe with Lithuania to whittle the deficit to just one, 40-39, at the half.
While Luigi Datome was able to finally give Italy the lead, Lithuania roared back with a 10-3 run. Italy responed with a 12-3 blast that gave them a 59-57 third-quarter lead.
With Lithuania's offense abandoning them at the end of 30 minutes, they turned up their defense, keeping Italy scoreless in the first six minutes of the fourth quarter while scoring 15 of their own. As Italy stared at 58-72 gap, Marco Belinelli single-handedly brought his squad back into the game, drawing to within six. However, Italy was already over the foul limit by then, and Lithuania capitalised on the penalty situation, hitting crucial free throws that kept Italy at bay.
Mantas Kalnietis was the clear man of the match, amassing 17 points, seven rebounds, and five assists on 8-of-12 shooting in an excellent all-around game. Lithuania also benefited from three other players who scored in double digits. Italy's Marco Belinelli topscored with 22 points and was supported by Alessandro Gentile, who poured in 15 of his own.
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