France rally late to overcome Arakji, Lebanon
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - France were still trailing as late as with six minutes left in the game, yet managed to pull out an 85-79 victory against the high-spirited Lebanon.
Wael Arakji was the main driving force for Lebanon with a game-high 29 points as his side led by as many as 10 points in the contest as they looked to repeat their 2006 World Cup win over the same opponents.
Turning point: Both teams remained neck and neck way throughout the second half. However, France managed to shot down the oxygen on Lebanon's offense once clutch time was getting near. Their 11-0 run gave them a sizable 74-65 lead. Even though Lebanon got as close as three points, France didn't make the same mistakes in the very last minutes of the game.
TCL Player of the Game: Guerschon Yabusele missed much of the fourth quarter due to foul trouble, but proved to be too much to handle for Lebanon whenever he was in the game. The power forward scored 18 points, had 3 blocks and 3 steals in a 7-of-9 shooting effort from the field.
Lebanon's offense was unimaginable without Arakji, who scored 29 points and dished out 4 assists. He also converted 10-of-13 shots from 2-point range, attacking the paint time and time again.
Stats don't lie: France ultimately were better equipped at creating good looks when they needed it the most. Les Bleus finished the game with 23 assists, whereas Lebanon couldn't overcome the issues that 18 turnovers presented and only had 15 assists.
Bottom line: France overcome the possibility of a shocking 0-3 record in the group stage and will try to avoid such upsets in the Classification Round. Their performance might improve if Rudy Gobert and Moustapha Fall return to the court, however, Mathias Lessort has already been shut down for the rest of the World Cup due to a previous ankle injury.
Lebanon regain some confidence after the Latvia and Canada blowouts, while the third and fourth-placed Group G teams will have to review the tape to see how dangerous the Lebanese can be in the open court.
They said: "I'm proud of my guys. Today we fought again. We were leading the game for 20 to 25 minutes. At the end we committed some mistakes like giving up offensive rebounds and transition, and they punished us. The most important thing is that we're on the right track. This is the character that we like to play with. This is Lebanon! Hopefully we start getting some wins in the upcoming two games." - Jad El Hajj, Lebanon head coach
"It's very unfortunate that we lost. We had a chance to beat a very tough team. Even if they had a couple of major players missing. Just playing against Batum, Fournier, Nando, Yabusele, all these French guys that we respect a lot, is an honor. I thought we had them for a second, but they just have so much experience and they knew how to finish the game." - Wael Arkaji, Lebanon
"This is not easy for us. The disappointment about elimination is still there. What we have to do now is show something better. I think we did it in the second half with real commitment from the players. We were playing without our big men. Guerschon had to play the 5 the whole game and we were undersized. The last two games will be difficult. I don't know if we will have our big men coming back, but I hope we show this desire." - Vincent Collet, France head coach
"We want to thank Lebanon. They played really hard. It was a tough game for us. It was really important for us to get the win, to kind of get out of this bad phase that we are having. I think the result doesn't matter, because we fought today. The key for us was to stay together and to finish the tournament on a good note. We just have to go back, rest and get ready for what's coming next." - Guerschon Yabusele, France