In what has been described as “the game of the tournament so far”, Team USA edged out Lithuania 107-105 in overtime at the FIBA Under-19 Men’s World Championship today. Jeremy Lamb was the star of the game with 35 points on 13-for-23 shooting, including the winning basket with 1.9 seconds left on the clock. It looked like Lamb was going to carry his team to a runaway victory when they took a 19-point lead late in the second quarter, but Lithuania clawed back and then carved away an eight-point deficit in the final 37 seconds of the fourth quarter to send the game into OT.
Jonas Valanciunas was Lithuania’s best player once again, finishing with 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting (8-for-10 from the line), 15 rebounds and four blocks. If you watch the highlight video above, you’ll notice there’s only one positive Valanciunas highlight. For whatever reason, his performance didn’t actually seem all that impressive to me as I watched the game. Several people on Twitter felt the same way.
Lithuania’s regular starting point guard, Vytenis Cizauskas, sat out this game with an ankle injury and his absence was noticed in their guards’ inability to feed Valanciunas the ball in good scoring position off pick-and-rolls. While his lack of strength was exposed on defense today, the fact that Valanciunas was able to score 30 points mostly from his own creation was impressive.
“He’s the real deal. I love his competitiveness. After the game, he was so upset he was crying and punching walls. He went Rambo on us in the second half.”
As for Young, you can hear his evolved thoughts on Jonas in this clip starting at the 22-second mark:
Lithuania should be able to roll over Egypt fairly easily tomorrow, so I expect we’ll get to see more of Valanciunas in the quarterfinals when the games will be viewable on FIBATV.com. Whether or not Lithuania ends up with a medal, it’s apparent that more and more people are getting on board the Valanciunas bandwagon. He still has a lot of work to do on his body and his game, but the raw tools are obviously there for him to be a special player. It speaks highly of his potential that he can put up 30 and 15 like he did today and I’m still inclined to focus on what he needs to improve.