Russia Reaches Semifinals in Athens




ATHENS, Greece -- Vassily Karassev's 31 points and tight second-half team defense helped Russia beat Lithuania 82-67 Friday to move into the semifinals at the World Basketball Championship.


Karassev scored 19 in the second half and Sergei Babkov added 10 points and six rebounds for Russia, which next faces the winner of the quarterfinal between the United States and Italy.


Russia pulled away with a 9-0 run late in the second half, after Lithuania had closed to within 63-61 on two free throws by 7-foot-2 center Eurelijus Zukauskas.


Karassev scored nine points in an earlier 14-4 spurt that gave Russia, silver medalist at the 1994 worlds, the lead for good early in the second half.


"The difference in the game was defense and pressure on offense. The man with the hot hand today was Karassev so we just gave him the ball,'' said Russian forward Yevgeny Kissourine, who helped contain Lithuania's Arturas Karnisovas.


Lithuania, bronze medalist at the last two Olympics, went without a field goal for the first six minutes of the second half and shot just 17-of-48 (35 percent) from the field for the game, which was attended by about 2,000 people at the 18,000-capacity Olympic arena.


The other quarterfinal matchups were Yugoslavia vs. Argentina and Greece vs. Spain.


The loss knocked Lithuania out of medal contention, a disappointment after the team handed the United States its lone loss at the tournament in preliminary round action.


And Lithuania led by as many as nine in the back-and-forth first half Friday, going up 32-23 with 3:20 remaining on two free throws by Seton Hall product Karnisovas.


There were five ties or lead changes in the opening 20 minutes, which ended with Lithuania ahead 38-35.


But Russia shut down Lithuania's high-scoring forward tandem of Karnisovas and Saulius Stombergas after the break. Stamburgas finished with 17 points and Karnisovas with 14, but they combined for just eight in the second half.


"We were holding them and holding them,'' said Karnisovas, who entered averaging 18.2 points per game, second-best at the tournament. "We got as close as two points, then we made such big mistakes on defense.''


Karassev, who plays in the German league, made 9-of-14 shots from the field and 12-of-14 from the free throw line.


The two countries used to supply players for the Soviet juggernaut that for years was the only true challenger to the United States in international competition.


In consolation games played Friday, former NBA player Andrew Gaze's 33 points led Australia past Canada 88-71, while Rogerio Klafke had 19 points and seven rebounds as Brazil defeated Puerto Rico 76-64.