Sun, Aug 27, 2006 - Page 24 News List

Olympic champs Argentina advance

CRUISING The Athens 2004 gold medalists ended New Zealand's hopes with a comfortable win, while Lithuania took revenge on Italy thanks to some woeful free throws

AFP , SAITAMA, JAPANCNA, TAIPEI

Andres Nocioni of Argentina, right, gets the rebound against Dillon Boucher of New Zealand during their second-round game at the FIBA World Basketball Championships in Saitama City, Japan, yesterday.

PHOTO: EPA

Reigning Olympic champion Argentina booked a World Basketball Championship quarter-final date with Turkey and Lithuania will meet Spain after a revenge-fueled victory yesterday.

NBA star guard Emanuel Ginobili scored 28 points while his San Antonio Spurs teammate Fabricio Oberto added 23 points and 10 rebounds to power Argentina's 79-63 victory over New Zealand.

"We performed well," Ginobili said. "Now it's the start of the world championship."

In Argentina's path for a semi-final berth on Tuesday will be Turkey, which defeated Slovenia 90-84 behind 24 points from Serkan Erdogan, a guard with Tau Ceramica of the Spanish league.

"They are a dangerous team. You don't let them do the things they want to do. They come at you inspired," Ginobili said. "The next game is the one we were playing for. It's the semi-finals or nothing. We knew in any situation we would win this game. To win the next one means we're going to have to be focused."

Lithuania edged Italy 71-68, avenging a 2004 Athens Olympic semi-final loss. The Italians made only 1-of-8 free throws in the final 7.8 seconds to cost themselves a berth in the final eight.

"We had unfinished business. They took away our medal from Athens," said Lithuania forward Linas Kleiza of the NBA Denver Nuggets. "It feels good."

Lithuania reached a Tuesday quarter-final against Spain.

Today's round-of-16 games from the opposite bracket find the US NBA stars facing Australia, Germany playing Nigeria, France meeting African champion Angola and European champion Greece taking on Asian champion China.

Ginobili scored six points in a 14-4 Argentina run early in the third quarter for a 51-35 lead and the Tall Blacks, led by US college standout Mark Dickel's 14 points, never moved within reach again.

"Even though we won by 17, they played good," Ginobili said. "They lost Fabricio a little bit. He was only averaging seven points in the first five games and today he exploded for 23. We have a deep team. We have a lot of guys who can do that."

New Zealand, a surprise fourth at the 2002 worlds, lost coach Tab Baldwin. The American announced his resignation after the Tall Blacks were eliminated.

"It was a difficult decision but I think it's time," Baldwin said. "I think the best thing now is to hand the mantle to someone else who can do the job that needs to be done in the future."

NBA guard Arvydas Macijauskas led the Lithuanians with 15 points as they defeated a nemesis that also beat them at the 2000 Olympics and 1998 world championship.

"They always win. They're always one of the better teams," said Lithuanian NBA standout Darius Songaila of Chicago, who added 12 points. "We knew they would be tough. We knew when we played them we would all be keyed up."

Macijauskas, a guard for the New Orleans-Oklahoma City Hornets, scored 10 points in the fourth quarter to lift Lithuania, aided by woeful Italy free throwing at the finish and Angelo Gigli knocking a rebound into his own basket.

In the last two seconds, Marco Belinelli missed two free throws and Gianluca Basile blew three more to seal Italy's fate.

Turkey 90, Slovenia 84

Serkan Erdogan scored 24 points as Turkey advanced with a 90-84 victory over Slovenia.

The Turks will face reigning Olympic champion Argentina in Tuesday's quarter-final.

"It's our hearts, our courage. We're not scared of anybody and we're being rewarded," Erdogan said. "This is a great victory. Now we get to play the biggest team in the world."

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