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Lithuania survive Tall Blacks late rally to advance
BARCELONA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Lithuania held on to beat New Zealand 76-71 in the Round of 16 at Barcelona's Palau Sant Jordi on Sunday and reach the Quarter-Finals of FIBA's flagship event for the third consecutive time.
New Zealand's Tall Blacks are known for never giving up and this much was evident from the showing put on by Nenad Vucinic's team. Down by double-digits early on, they clawed their way back to fight an even battle but Lithuania did enough to edge them out.
A 15-4 run, including eight unanswered points, in the latter part of the first quarter proved enough evidence for the early Lithuanian domination of the floor, the boards and the scoreboard. That trend continued for a better part of the game.
New Zealand, who made a gnawing effort to cut the deficit in the third quarter, took the fight to their opponents by scoring the first nine points of the final period, with Isaac Fotu and Corey Webster hitting on three successive three-pointers.
Jonas Valanciunas, the key enforcer of the Lithuanian plans early in the game came back to take charge of the proceedings leading the Jonas Kazlauskas-trained team out of danger.
The Toronto Raptors center had 22 points and 13 rebounds.
Jonas Maciulis, who got a couple of stitches above his right eye-brow following a first-quarter freak accident with Thomas Abercombie, then sealed the issue for Lithuania by hitting from long range.
New Zealand didn't throw in the towel as yet, but Lithuania proved far too sturdy to give away the advantage.
Corey Webster led New Zealand with a game-high 26, 17 of them coming in the second half and eight in the third period when the Tall Blacks began their resurgence.
Lithuania will face the winners of the Australia-Turkey Round of 16 game.