Lithuania survived a tougher than expected fight in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers as they fended off Hungary 88-78 on the road in a Group K nail-biter.
The teams came into the game knowing they would face off in Group B of the FIBA EuroBasket in Cologne in a few weeks. Lithuania’s big stars made the difference as both Domantas Sabonis and Jonas Valanciunas scored 17 points while Mindaugas Kuzminskas had 14 points, Rokas Jokubaitis tallied 12 points, and Marius Grigonis chipped in 11 points. Adam Hanga poured in 21 points to lead Hungary in a losing effort.
Turning point: Hungary had shrugged off an 11-point deficit from early in the second half and were hanging tough 77-76 with under three minutes to play in the game. Valanciunas grabbed a big offensive rebound and put it back, and Kuzminskas followed with a three-point play to push the advantage to 82-76. Grigonis added a triple to decide the game for good.
Game hero: Valanciunas was just a force for Lithuania, scoring 17 points and securing eight rebounds, not to mention getting Hungary’s low-post players in foul trouble.
Stats don’t lie: Lithuania drained 11-of-21 three-pointers for 52.4 percent while Hungary converted just 6-of-20 (30 percent), allowing Lithuania to keep Hungary at bay.
Bottom line: Lithuania took a big step toward the World Cup with a 6-1 record, while Hungary dropped to 3-4 and will need to bounce back Saturday at the Czech Republic. Lithuania will next host Montenegro on Saturday.