De Colo Fires France To Another Win



Turning Point: With the contest knotted at 54-54 with less than six minutes to go, Nando de Colo scored four consecutive points to spark a 12-3 run for France. Lithuania cut the gap 66-62 with 1:25 remaining but got no closer.

Game Hero: France's Nando de Colo had 13 of his game-high 21 points in the final quarter. He pulled down four rebounds and came up with five steals.

Stats Don't Lie: France scored 13 points off Lithuania's 16 turnovers.

Nando de Colo exploded for 21 points and came up with five steals to help keep unbeaten France on a roll at the EuroBasket.

Playing in front of a sold-out Vilnius Arena crowd, De Colo and France prevailed 73-67 to remain top of Group E.

Tony Parker also had a big game for France, finishing with 19 points and both Joakim Noah and Nicolas Batum poured in nine.

Noah finished with a game-high 13 rebounds, six of those coming on the offensive glass.

"For us, this is our biggest performance in Lithuania," France coach Vincent Collet said.

"To do it in Vilnius, in front of this crowd means that we are a real team.

"Nando made very big shots that helped us get back in front."

Just as Serbia had to compete in a red-hot atmosphere 48 hours before, the French ran onto the floor and managed to open up a nine-point lead in the first half with Les Bleus getting eight points apiece from De Colo and Parker and six from Batum.

Lithuania, with Simas Jasaitis finding his touch and scoring seven points and the defense making life harder for France, took a 46-43 lead by the end of third quarter.

The tournament hosts, sparked by a Rimantas Kaukenas three-pointer, went on a 12-2 run over the last 5:59 of the frame.

Jonas Valanciunas had four points in that stretch for the Lithuanians.

A De Colo three-pointer put France into a 52-50 lead with 7:04 to go but it wasn't until his two free-throws with 5:15 to play which made it 56-54 did France go in front for good.

France stretched the advantage to 66-57 after Noah grabbed an offensive rebound on a Parker missed free-throw and dunked with 1:47 to go, but Lithuania passed the ball up the floor quickly and Valanciunas dunked.

Then after Nicolas Batum tried to dribble through a double-team and had the ball stolen by Jasaitis, Jasikevicius popped a shot from the arc to make it 66-62 with 1:25 left.

Following a Collet timeout, Lithuania fouled Boris Diaw and he sank both free-throws for the six-point lead again and both Martynas Pocius and Jasaitis missed three-balls to killed the home fans' hopes of a comeback.

"I think the key to our victory was our defense," Collet said.

"We forced them to take a lot of difficult shots. That helped us to remain in the game and to control the tempo."

Lithuania had upset the Serbians but now are 2-2 in Group E and in third place.

"We knew it would be a tough game," Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura said.

"We came back in the third quarter and we did a pretty good job on their leaders but the X-factor was Nando de Colo in the fourth quarter really hurt us.

"We couldn't stop him in crucial moments. We turned over the ball too much and the French got 13 points from our turnovers.

"We didn't shoot the ball well.

"We got a few open shots but it didn't work for us."

De Colo had played some very important games for Valencia in Spain's ACB and the Euroleague last season and that experience clearly helped him in the big moments against Lithuania.

"It was a good game," De Colo said.

"We played aggressive in defense and this is what we want.

"We stayed together throughout the game and we must continue like this.

"During the competition we have stayed focused.

"Tonight I had the opportunity to play my game and I took advantage."

For Lithuania, Jasaitis had 13 points and Valanciunas 12.

But unlike the 11-of-20 effort against Serbia on Wednesday, Lithuania made just seven of 23 shots from long range.



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