Lithuania survived a real scare against Ukraine before eventually prevailing 69-68 in their EuroBasket 2015 Group D opener in Riga, Latvia on Saturday.
Turning Point: When Ukraine's 19-point, 11-rebound leader Kyrylo Fesenko fouled out with his team trailing by six with 4:49 to play it appeared to spell the end of his team's challenge. But some clutch shooting from his supporting cast set the scene for a grandstand finale only for the Ukrainian side to struggle to create a shot in the final four seconds after Jonas Maciulis gave the Green Machine an edge from the free throw line.
Stats Don't Lie: Lithuania only shot 34% from the floor but managed to offset such shortcomings by getting to the line consistently. Jonas Kazlauskas' side attempted 25 free throws, connecting on 20 while Ukraine only managed to get to the line on three occasions.
Game Hero: There were strong statistical showings from Valanciunas (19 points, 11 rebounds) and Paulius Jankunas (22 points) but it was perhaps the late injection of energy from EuroBasket debutant Lukas Lekavicius that was pivotal in getting Lithuania over the line. The 21-year-old checked in with 94 seconds to play and came up with a vital steal and a big defensive rebound, which gave his team the chance to enter the closing seconds in front.
The Bottom Line: A win is a win at this stage for Lithuania. Coach Jonas Kazlauskas will expect big improvements moving forward but having given some of his fresh blood a first taste of the atmosphere and side-stepped an upset, things will surely get better. Few would have expected Ukraine to put up such a fight and they will take great confidence from this performance even in defeat. Fesenko caught the eye, but there were impressive efforts from the likes of Olexandr Mishula and Maksym Pustozvonov too.
They said: "For us, the biggest problem was that we didn't play as a team, every one of us was trying to score, to beat the opponent on our own and this was a big problem" - Lithuania head coach Jonas Kazlauskas.