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Fortress Ankara, giant Erden carry Turkey past Spain in thriller
Ankara (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Turkey took over first place in Group I of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers with a thrilling 71-67 victory of Spain as the Turks remained perfect at home in the qualification and extended their winning streak in Ankara.
In front of a sold-out crowd of 9,500 spectators at Ankara Arena, Semih Erden showed glimpses of his former superstar self as he collected 16 points and 14 rebounds while Dogus Balbay picked up 12 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals and 1 block in helping Turkey improve to 7-2 in the group - with a 5-0 record at home and four straight wins in the Turkish capital. James Metecan Birsen added 12 points, Bugrahan Tuncer had 11 points and 8 assists and Tolga Gecim chipped in 10 points.
.@TBF 🇹🇷 gets the huge W and remain perfect at 🏠! @semiherden_9 was on a different level! #FIBAWC #ThisIsMyHouse— Basketball World Cup (@FIBAWC) November 29, 2018
📝 https://t.co/pBU9D7bidS pic.twitter.com/TxpI3BMMgI
Spain dropped to 7-2 in the group and missed a chance to book their ticket to China 2019 - had Ukraine also later in the day lost to Slovenia. Dario Brizuela shined off the bench for Spain with 18 points while Fran Vazquez had 10 points, Nacho Llovet picked up 5 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocks, and Jaime Fernandez added 5 points and 8 assists.
Turning point: Spain had battled back to tie the game before Erden gave Turkey the lead 69-67 with a tough hook in the lane with 32 seconds left. Quino Colom then missed a three-pointer for the guests withTolga Gecim hitting two free throws at the other end and the victory was sealed.
Game hero: Erden put up his first double-double of the European Qualifiers and was an unstoppable force for the Turks, hitting 6 of 8 shots while grabbing 4 offensive rebounds as he had 16 points and 14 rebounds.
Stats don't lie: Turkey's tough defense held Spain to just 36 percent shooting while Turkey committed just 8 turnovers in the game. Turkey have now won nine straight games at the Ankara Arena - dating back to their 5-0 record in the Group Phase of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010.
Bottom Line: Turkey are in the driver's seat for the group victory and next face Montenegro on Sunday - knowing a win and other results could secure them a spot in next summer’s World Cup. Spain look to rebound at home against Ukraine.
They said: "This was definitely a very important game for this group and on our way to China. It was one of the defining games that we prepared for, especially winning against Spain is always important. This was a very positive step for us, especially in terms of Turkish basketball and this team's transition from the old Turkish basketball team to the new generation. This win says a lot and is very important and makes me hopeful for the future. We did expect a game, effort-wise. Defensively we did better than what we expected but in the end it was a great game and I'm proud that we won." - Turkey head coach Ufuk Sarica
"This was a very important game for the group (as in Group I), especially regarding who's going to finish first. Now we have an advantage over Spain as we're first. It was a great team effort. I'm proud to be a part of the team. It's a big step but it's not the end, we still have three more games to play to go to China. We're looking forward to it. This was a very positive step to that end. We only had three days to prepare for this game, it was tough but we pulled through in the end. We're proud of the team and looking forward to the next game." - Turkey forward James Metecan Birsen
"We have to congratulate the Turkey team for this win. On our side, I'm very proud of the efforts of our players. We were smaller and lighter in any position. They had a bunch of Euroleague players. Still we were in the game until the end. We were fighting to recover, we were trying to not accept this inferiority and really fight hard to try and keep them away from offensive rebounds - which was a problem - and try to find a way to make some baskets in the paint which you need because three-point shooting can be up and down and tonight wasn't consistent throughout the 40 minutes. So again congratulations to Turkey but I'm really proud of the effort of these players. So now we focus on the next decisive game on Sunday." - Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo
"Basically the same as coach said. Turkey had a great game, we didn't feel comfortable on the court so just give credit to them and we look forward to our next opportunity on Sunday when hopefully we can qualify." - Spain guard Jaime Fernandez