Olympic Qualifying Tournament: Semifinals – July 7, 2012
Russia and Lithuania are London bound. The two national teams won their respective semifinal tilts Saturday at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, to secure their place at the 2012 Olympic Games starting at the end of the month in the British capital. The last remaining spot among the 12 in the Olympic event will be decided Sunday when the losers of Saturday’s games, Nigeria and the Dominican Republic, square off in a winner-takes-all battle. Russia took charge with a big second quarter and never looked back in beating Nigeria 77-85 behind 22 points and 6 assists from CSKA Moscow guard Alexey Shved. Lithuania took care of business with a 109-83 pasting of the Dominicans as Zalgiris playmaker Mantas Kalnietis ran the show with 9 points and 9 assists.
Russia 77-85 Nigeria
Team Russia is headed back to the Olympic for the third time since the turn of the century after holding off Nigeria 77-85 behind 22 points and 6 assists from CSKA Moscow guard Alexey Shved. The Nigerians kept it close through 10 minutes as Ade Dagunduro’s basket-plus-foul made it 23-26 at the end of the opening quarter and Chamberlain Oguchi tied it with a triple in the first minute of the second. Russia responded with a quick 0-10 run in which four players scored. The Russians later held Nigeria without a point for the final five minutes of the half to raise their advantage to 31-56 at the break. A minute and a half into the second half, Russia led by 20 on a slam by CSKA center Sasha Kaun. Nigeria did not quit and rallied within 6 on a Dagunduro basket midway through the fourth quarter, but with an Olympic berth at stake, Russia proved up to the challenge and never let Lithuania get closer. Euroleague MVP Andrei Kirilenko tallied 19 points, 8 rebounds and 4 steals, BC Khimki guard Vitaly Fridzon added 15 points and Kaun 11 for Russia. Dagunduro and Ike Diogu scored 16 apiece to pace Nigeria. Diogu also collected 14 rebounds.
Lithuania 109-83 Dominican Republic
Lithuania is headed to its sixth straight Olympics after routing the Dominican Republic 109-83. Jonas Maciulis scored 19 to lead five Lithuanian scorers in double figures and Zalgiris playmaker Mantas Kalnietis ran the show with 9 points and 9 assists for the three-time Olympic bronze medalists. The Dominicans came out of the blocks strong and were within 17-16 with a minute left in the first quarter before baskets by four-time Euroleague champ Sarunas Jasikevicius and Maciulis put Lithuania up 5 after 10 minutes. The Dominican Republic came back to tie it at 21-21 on a pair of Ronald Ramon free throws early in the second quarter, but Marty Pocius of Real Madrid and Kalnietis responded with back-to-back three-pointers. Pocius went on to total 8 points in a 14-2 run that put his side firmly in charge. All-Eurocup center Jonas Valanciunas’s basket left Lithuania up 52-36 at halftime, former Alphonso Ford Top Scorer Trophy winner Linas Kleiza made it a 20-point game in the third quarter and Lithuania held on the rest of the way. Valanciunas totaled 17 points and 7 rebounds, Kleiza scored 13 and Pocius 12 for the winners. Jack Martinez posted 13 points and 10 rebounds and Al Horford added 12 points for Dominican Republic in defeat.
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