Australia have survived a late scare against Lithuania, claiming a thrilling 84-82 win.
The Emerging Boomers led by 16 points heading into the final term, however lost the last quarter 26-12. They managed to hold their nerve late to claim their first win of the tournament.
Dejan Vasiljevic was at another level, scoring 28 points for the second straight game while draining 6-of-10 three-pointers, while Xavier Cooks delivered 20 points and 4 blocks in an outstanding performance of his own.
Both sides got off to a slow start, with Justas Tamulis finally breaking the deadlock with a score at the eight minute mark. The Australians replied quickly thanks to a block from Xavier Cooks which was finished down the other end by Matthew Kenyon.
After a poor start, the game picked up, with the two teams going back and forth. Lithuania looked to use their size down low, while Australia were utilising their length and speed. For the majority of the game the Emerging Boomers played either four or five players out on the perimeter on offense.
Vasiljevic immediately picked up from where he left off last game, looking super confident coming off the dribble and screens away from the ball. Australia took the early lead via some impressive outside shooting and good rebounding. There were many changes on defense from head coach Mark Radford, which kept Lithuania guessing.
A late four-point flourish by Melbourne United’s Kyle Adnam, and a three pointer from Tomas Dimsa, meant the scores were close heading into the first break (23-22). Gorjok Gak’s hustle and intensity was illustrated by his five rebounds through the first period.
Adnam was back at it again to start the second quarter, creating for himself and others brilliantly off the dribble. His play should definitely have Melbourne fans excited. During the second quarter, Lithuania made big man Martinas Geben a clear focal point of the offense. The Australians managed to defend him relatively well, while taking advantage of his slow lateral movement down the other end.
Neither side was able to break loose of the other, so Cooks took it upon himself. He nailed 12 points in a row for Australia during the second period, pushing the Emerging Boomers out to a seven point lead. Both teams were able to find their offense in parts for the remainder of the quarter, meaning Australia had a 44-37 lead at the half.
Cooks would head into the major break with 14 points and two blocks, while Gorjok Gak had five points and seven rebounds. Regimantas Minotas (nine points), and Geben (six points and six rebounds) had done most of the damage for Lithuania.
The third quarter was all about Dejan Vasiljevic where he literally exploded. He had nine points heading into the period, however would finish the term sitting on 24. The Miami Hurricane lit it up from deep, scoring triples seemingly at will. It didn’t matter if they were contested, from two metres behind the line, or with the shot clock running down, or a combination of all three – they were all dropping!
The Lithuanians could do little to stop him, and he even managed to breathe some life into the mostly quiet crowd. Australia had managed to hold their opposition scoreless for the first 4:40 of the quarter, taking a 55-37 lead. Lithuania did manage to get on a quick run when they broke the seal, scoring seven points in a row, yet the Emerging Boomers went into the final change with a commanding 72-56 advantage.
However, a quality side like Lithuania were not going to go down without a fight. They returned fire in the fourth quarter with a three-point barrage of their own. Led by Evaldas Saulys, they nailed three triples to start the final term. Their run continued, and before the Aussies knew it, they were on the wrong end of a 16-2 run.
Holding a slim two point advantage, it was captain Cooks who managed to settle the ship, with a tip in from an offensive rebound. From there both sides would go back and forth, with Geben and Sauyls continuing to be important for Lithuania.
But it was no surprise that Vasiljevic delivered down the stretch. He knocked down a crucial mid-range jumper to stretch the lead out to five with under 30 seconds to go. After Gak was called for a goal-tend, Vasiljevic would bury two shots from the free throw line, again coming up clutch.
Lithuania did give the Aussies one last scare, managing to force a turnover and having opportunities to tie or win the game before the buzzer sounded. However, they couldn’t get the job done, as Cooks registered his fourth blocked shot, with the Emerging Boomers’ defense holding out once again.
Vasiljevic finished with an incredible 28 points, shooting 6-of-10 from deep. Cooks was also impressive, chipping in 20 of his own to go along with six rebounds and four blocks.
Evaldas Saulys led the way for Lithuania, recording 17 points. Teammate Regimantas Miniotas finished with a solid double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds.
Australia will now play Israel in two days time, while Lithuania will look to return to form against Mozambique.
The International University Sports Federation is live streaming games for free and is worth checking at the scheduled start times.
Australia 84: Vasiljevic 28, Cooks 20
Lithuania 82: Saulys 17, Miniotas 14, Tarolis 14, Dimsa 13, Danisevicius 12
Emerging Boomers Schedule (all times AEST)
August 20: Australia lost to Ukraine 76-80
August 21: Australia defeated Lithuania 84-82
August 23: Australia vs Israel at 5:00pm
August 24: Australia vs Russia at 2:30pm
August 25: Australia vs Mozambique at 12:00pm
August 27: Quarterfinals
August 28: Semifinals
August 29: Grand Final