Russia, Lithuania Win to Start Worlds




ATHENS, Greece -- Lithuania and Russia, two countries that used to supply players for the Soviet juggernaut, opened the World Basketball Championship on Wednesday with blowout victories in front of sparse crowds.


Darius Lukminus scored 20 points and Arturas Karnishovas added 19 as Lithuania beat South Korea 97-56. Russia led Japan all the way to a 83-58 win.


Lithuania, which faces the United States on Thursday, struggled through the first 20 minutes against South Korea, trailing by as many as five points before running away in the second half.


Once it got going, Lithuania -- bronze medalist at the last two Olympics -- didn't seem to miss its NBA big-man tandem of Arvidas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.


With the NBA lockout in place, only one player from the league -- Australia's Chris Anstey -- is participating in the tournament.


The United States, with a mixed bag of players from the CBA and European leagues, made its debut later Wednesday against Brazil.


In other opening action Wednesday, it was: Yugoslavia vs. Puerto Rico, Nigeria vs. Spain, Senegal vs. Italy, Australia vs. Argentina and Greece vs. Canada.


Only about 100 spectators witnessed the Lithuania game at 18,000-seat Olympic Stadium, and about the same number attended the Russia-Japan match at 14,000-capacity Peace and Friendship Stadium across town.