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China vs Cote d'Ivoire . Day 2 of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Ankara , Turkey . 29 August 2010.Preliminary round

ISTANBUL (2010 FIBA World Championship) - For those who think Chinese basketball is nowhere without Yao Ming, think again.

China, against all expectations, have earned a trip to the Eight-Finals at a FIBA World Championship for the second time in a row only this time, without their 7ft 5in Yao leading the way.

The Chinese fought their first four Group C opponents every inch of the way in Ankara but only managed to beat Ivory Coast, 83-73.

The basketball gods rewarded them for their effort, though, and once again it was a three-pointer that put them into the knockout phase of the tournament.

Unlike four years ago in Sapporo, however, when Wang Shipeng buried a desperation three at the buzzer against Slovenia to advance at the expense of Puerto Rico, this time the three-ball was not made by China.

On Thursday, the last day of pool play, it was a three by Puerto Rico that put China through.

With Puerto Rico being upset and knocked out of the tournament by Ivory Coast, David Huertas buried a shot from the arc at the buzzer to leave the Africans with an 88-79 victory.

Since China, Puerto Rico and Ivory Coast each had one win, goal differential was used a tie-breaker to determine fourth place.

Had Huertas missed, Ivory Coast would have had the best goal differential in the games between Puerto Rico, China and the African team.

As it was, China progressed on the goal differential tie-breaker.

If China were Yao Ming's team four years ago in Japan and in 2008 in Beijing, China is now Yi Jianlian's team.

The seven-footer is third in the tournament in scoring at 22.5 points per game.

In Istanbul, where China have moved to play in the Eight-Finals against Lithuania, Yi spoke to FIBA.com.

"We have played some good games," Yi said.

"We have played well from the beginning, but we are lucky to have made it to this round.

"I am very happy for the team and for my teammates. We have fought hard. We have shown in every game that we want to win."

Without question, one reason for China's success has been the arrival of American Bob Donewald as coach.

Donewald, who coached Shanghai in the CBA, has turned the Chinese into a team of fighters.

"The coach tells us to keep our focus and believe in ourselves," Yi said.

"He brings energy to this team."

Can China now surprise undefeated Lithuania?

"We have played well in our last four games and we have to keep doing that in our next game," Yi said.

"We need to be focused on the court, play good defense and take care of rebounding.

"I think if we do that we can do well."

You can see China's Eighth Fianl match-up with Lithuania live on FIBATV.Com


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