Turkey loses unbeaten streak but confident against Greece
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News | 9/17/2009 12:00:00 AM |
Turkey suffered its first loss at the EuroBasket 2009, but is determined not to be let down by this defeat. The 12 Giant Men start finals rounds with Friday’s quarterfinal game against experienced Greece. The key is tough defense and playing Turkey's own game, explains star forward Hidayet 'Hedo' Türkoğlu
Turkey is determined not to be let down by its first loss and seeks victory over experienced Greece on Friday in the quarterfinal of the EuroBasket 2009.
The 12 Giant Men’s five-game winning streak in the European Basketball Championship was ended with a 69-67 defeat at the hands of Slovenia on Wednesday. The victory placed Slovenia atop Group F in the qualifying round, while Turkey dropped to the second spot.
Turkey will meet Greece, the third team of Group E, while Slovenia will take on Croatia.
Wednesday’s loss placed Turkey on a tougher path to reach the final, as Turkey will take on the winner of the Spain-France game, which would be played on Thursday, if it can see off the Greek challenge.
Taking the other path, the winner of the Serbia-Russia and Slovenia-Croatia games will play in the semifinal.
Actually, Turkey really had a chance to win the Slovenia game that would clinch the top spot in Group F.
It needed a late rally to come from a 19-point deficit to take the game to the last shot. Slovenia was leading 37-18 with only about four minutes left in the second quarter, as Turkey’s defense, who helped the team win five games in a row, had failed to stop Slovenia’s sharpshooters. After Turkey sustained a solid level of defense, the Giants clawed back and the first half ended 39-32 for Slovenia.
Despite Slovenia being in control for most of the game, Turkey had a real chance to win the game as the score was 68-64 with 10 seconds left in the game. Guard Ender Arslan was fouled against when he was behind the arc and converted all three throws to cut the deficit to one. In the following play Turkey made a tactical foul against Samo Udrih immediately, with the veteran guard making only one of two foul throws. Turkey had the final play with seconds left and Arslan drove to the basket and passed the ball to Efes Pilsen guard Engin Atsür, who tried for a three-point shot to win the game, but missed.
Turkish players said it was a fine clutch-time play, but it did not work out.
“It was a nice drive by Ender and he found Engin,” said Hidayet “Hedo” Türkoğlu, who seemed to bounce back from previous poor form with 12 points. “Engin made a good shot but it didn’t go in.”
Guard Ömer Onan agreed: “True, maybe Ender could have made the shot but Engin made a good shot, too. We made a good play, but we couldn’t win.”
Both players admitted that this loss will be a lesson before the quarterfinals.
“Our performance in the second half could have been shown in the first half,” said Hedo, who plays for the Toronto Raptors in the NBA. “We are sad but it will be a lesson for us.”
Onan was confident ahead of the Greece game.
“Greece is an experienced team and it plays tough basketball,” said the Fenerbahçe Ülker guard. “But as long as we play like we did in the second half, there is nothing to be afraid of. I count on my friends, if we can do the same we will beat Greece.”
Hedo added that the key to victory over Greece is to play with the team’s real character.
“As long as we play our game, no one can stand in front of us,” said Hedo. “Our game is the one in the second half.”
“Everybody should believe in us, it is going to be a really different performance [than the one against Slovenia],” he said. “Turkey will start having fun on Friday.”
Hedo, who is arguably Turkey’s most crucial player, has yet to play up to his full potential, but the versatile forward showed signs of recovery from his knee injury. Right now, Barcelona forward Ersan İlyasova continues to lead Turkey in scoring, producing an average 17.3 points per game. Center Ömer Aşık, who is backed by Semih Erden and Oğuz Savaş, is crashing up the boards and is a threat with his blocked shots, but definitely needs to step up his free throws.
But apparently, once again, defense will be the key. The tournament’s third finest defense, with an average 67.3 points allowed, was the main factor why Turkey has been victor in five of the first six games, and it will again be needed against Greece.