France, Lithuania win, gain quarters
LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- France, Lithuania and Serbia have each advanced to the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship, with France and Lithuania winning their games Friday and Serbia moving on despite a loss to Ukraine.
France cruised past Latvia 102-91 and Lithuania beat 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 day of second-round play Saturday. 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, the brother of American 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 eight rebounds for Ukraine.
Serbia improved to 3-1, while Ukraine moved to 2-2. The Serbs will next play France and Ukraine meets Lithuania in their final second-round games. Latvia takes on Belgium and needs to win to have a chance of advancing. France is also 3-1 and Latvia is 2-2.
Alexis Ajinca scored 25 points for France, which led by as many as 22 before slowing down in the final quarter, allowing Latvia to pull within nine. But San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker finished with 23 points to help France slow the rally, while Nicolas Batum of the Portland Trail Blazers added 19 points and 10 rebounds.
"We controlled the game but they never gave up," Ajinca said.
Dairis Bertans led all scorers with 28 points 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 at the end of the third quarter to give Ukraine a nine-point lead, which increased to 11 at the start of the fourth. With Serbia trying to close the gap, Jeter sank back-to-back 3s, added a jumper and then a steal before making one of two free throws. The flurry put Ukraine up by eight with 1:05 remaining.
"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."
"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.
"We missed some open shots at the beginning but we knew the scoring would come," Lithuania coach Jonas Kazlauskas said.
Serbia struggled with 11 turnovers -- Ukraine scored 15 points off the giveaways -- and shot 50 percent (12-of-24) from the free throw line.
"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.
"Jeter gave us a lot of problems, he hit a lot of easy baskets," Bjelica said.
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press
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