Lithuania may be the host country for Eurobasket, but home court wasn’t enough to propel Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania past France today.
The lead switched hands several times during the game, but it always stayed close throughout the game, until 2009 San Antonio Spurs draft selection Nando De Colo erupted in the fourth quarter.
After the game was tied 54 apiece with just over five minutes left in the game, De Colo scored four straight points to put France ahead for good in their 73-67 win.
De Colo put France on his back, coming up with steals and rebounds and turning them into points on the other end, 13 of which came in the fourth quarter. De Colo, who played for Valencia last season, had been mediocre at best through six Eurobasket games before he caught fire today. He was averaging 2.1 points, 1.3 rebounds and 0.8 assists per game prior to today’s game.
After De Colo got hot early with layups and a three-pointer, coach Vincent Collet decided to give him additional playing time and elected to keep him on the floor in a high-pressure fourth quarter, which paid dividends for Collet and France.
“For us, this is our biggest performance in Lithuania,” France coach Vincent Collet said. ”To do it in Vilnius, in front of this crowd means that we are a real team. Nando made very big shots that helped us get back in front.”
France’s defense was the difference again, as they forced and capitalized on 16 turnovers. One they weren’t filling passing lanes and picking up 11 steals, France’s offense didn’t let up when Lithuania had no answer for Tony Parker and De Colo.
De Colo finished the game with 21 points, five steals and four rebounds. Parker added 19 points and three rebounds for France. Another former Spurs draft selection, Robertas Javtokas had six points and two rebounds for Lithuania.
With the win, France remains undefeated, with another tough match against Spain in the second round of Eurobasket on Sunday.