The Greeks are out, Bo McCalebb is out, J.J. Barea and Carlos Arroyo are out, and there won’t be any Angolans to elbow around at the 2012 Olympic men’s basketball tournament.
On a day of wild swings and finishes at the quarterfinals of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Caracas, Venezuela, the field of Olympic contenders was reduced to four — Russia, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria and Lithuania.
Two spots will be determined in today’s semifinals, with both of those teams going into Team USA’s group. The losers will play Sunday for the final berth.
The upset of the day belonged to Nigeria, which defeated Greece 80-79.
From FIBA.com: “An unlikely cameo from Ade Dagunduro has delivered Nigeria one of the most memorable victories in international basketball history and put one Nigerian foot into the London Olympics. After scoring just 19 points in the tournament to that point, the 1.95m guard nailed his country’s last seven points to secure a thrilling 80-79 Quarter-Final win over Greece. First Dagunduro hit a mid-range jumper with 70 seconds remaining from an Ike Diogu offensive rebound, and then a pull-up three-pointer with the shot clock winding down to reclaim a two-point lead with 30 seconds to play. After Kostas Papanikolaou nailed a triple of his own with 14 seconds left, Dagunduro then drove to the basket and drew a foul on Nikolas Zisis. To the delight of the deafening Nigerian fans, he slotted both free throws and then blocked Vassilis Spanoulis’ game-winning three-point attempt to spark wild mid-court celebrations. While Dagunduro’s 14 points were the icing on the cake, Ike Diogu (17 points, 12 rebounds) was the rock of Gibraltar. Al-Farouq Aminu (13 points, 5 rebounds) was also important, making repeated big plays throughout the game. For Greece, Spanoulis (25 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists) was the star but only Ioannis Bourousis (18 points, 5 rebounds) and Georgios Printezis (10 points) made it to double figures in support. Video highlights:
The comeback of the quarterfinals belonged to the Dominicans, who erased a 20-point second-quarter deficit to defeat Macedonia 86-76 despite 35 points from former University of New Orleans guard Bo McCalebb.
From FIBA.com: “The game appeared out of reach when the trailed by 20 points with four minutes to play in the second quarter, but a crucial 11-4 run to end the half opened the door for a revival. The hot shooting of Francisco Garcia then made the second half one to remember for their large band of travelling fans. Garcia finished with 28 points, 21 coming after halftime. Al Horford (14 points, 15 rebounds) overcame a horror first half through his hustle on the boards, while Jack-Michael Martinez (14 points, 13 rebounds), Ronald Ramon (13 points) and Elpidio Fortuna (9 points, 7 rebounds) all made valuable contributions at both ends. … The Dominican Republic opened the second half with a 12-2 run that brought the score to 43-40 and crowd to fever pitch, only to watch MKD extend the margin back to nine points. A Ramon three-pointer closed the gap to three but McCalebb immediately answered in kind. It wasn’t until Horford – who was 1-of-10 at three-quarter time – finally connected on a jump shot with 8:46 left in the fourth term that his team claimed the lead. From there Garcia made the game his own, scoring 10 points for the quarter as the Dominicans showed great poise.
After spraining his ankle in the previous game, Timofey Mozgov was sidelined for Russia. But David Blatt’s team held Angola to five second-quarter points to move on with an 80-65 victory over Angola.
From FIBA.com: “Perennial go-to man Andrei Kirilenko (14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists) was once again irresistible, pouring in nine first quarter points to help build a lead from which the Angolans never looked likely to come back.
With Kirilenko involved in almost every play, Vitaliy Fridzon (18 points) and Alexander Kaun (17) provided much of what remained of the scoring with Mozgov absence barely noticeable. In spite of a powerful showing by Eduardo Mingas (20) and solid displays by guards Armando Costa (10) and Carlos Morais (14) the Angolans struggled to cope with the strong Russian low post play. In game that will be remembered for some great inside play and some very mediocre three point shooting, the Russians once again lived up to their reputation of one of the best defensive units and most tactically solid teams in international basketball.”
Finally, the perennial European powerhouse from Lithuania got a crucial play from veteran Sarunas Jasikevicius in the final minute to defeat Puerto Rico 76-72.
From FIBA.com: “Puerto Rico had several opportunities to draw clear in the first half, leading by eight and six in the first and second quarters respectively thanks to the inside-out combination of JJ Barea and Peter John Ramos. But they could not string together baskets at the crucial time, whereas Martynas Pocius and Maciulis hit important buckets to keep Lithuania close. With the Europeans being awarded 15 free three throws in the final 6:11 of the second quarter they took a 40-38 halftime lead. In contrast, it was Lithuania who couldn’t break away in the third quarter despite controlling play. A spectacular Arroyo fade-away and a Galindo triple allowed Puerto Rico to reduce a seven-point deficit to just two at the final break. The story was the same in the final term, Lithuania out by seven before Arroyo and Galindo struck again to reduce the gap to one with 4:50 to play. When Arroyo hit his second triple the crowd erupted and the Americans (sic) had their first lead since the second quarter. In a gripping finale, Jasikevicius made his strong move to put his team up by one before a wild pass from Barea (5/15 field goals, 3 turnovers) robbed his team of a potentially game-winning shot.