Some timely interventions from Furkan Korkmaz proved crucial as Turkey beat Belgium in Istanbul in what proved an elimination game in Group D. The three amigos did their thing when Ufuk Sarica needed them most. Emmet Ryan on a night where Belgium gave Turkey a big fright before the youngsters came good for the hosts
The stakes were pretty high for this one at the start of the day and that got even higher following Latvia’s win over Russia. That turned this game from one where it was probably do or die to a straight-up elimination game. Whoever was standing, Belgium or Turkey, at the end of the 40 minutes was progressing to the knockout rounds while the loser was certain to exit the tournament.
No pressure then, for a Belgian side in front of a hot Turkish crowd or the home side looking to not disappoint their supporters on such a big night.
Cedi was running. He’d run every night so it was no surprise to see him running now. An early score, then two trips to the line. Cedi was daring Belgium’s defenders to take him on and the power of Jean Marc Mwema didn’t intimidate him. After a fine opening stint he stepped aside for Melih Mahmutoglu. Ufuk Saric wanted to run but he didn’t want to go full three amigos yet. He was looking to his veterans to bring some meat against the crafty Belgian line-up.
Guler to Semih Erden, behind the back and the lay-up. Timeout Belgium and Turkey had got the start they wanted, ahead 16-7 against a side with a penchant for hanging around. Sarica wanted something to build on and he was getting it early. Semih was rolling, getting whatever he wanted inside as Turkey piled on the offensive heat. At the end of the first it was Turkey on top, 23-14.
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Belgium are not ones for lying down. The D tightened up to start the second frame as they made a couple of soft scores to remind Turkey this wasn’t going to be a stroll. The home side was forcing it a little too much and, frankly, needed a good dose of Melih Mahmutoglu out there to calm everything down.
Sarica doubled down on the pace instead, bringing in Kenan Sipahi for our first dose of the three amigos together tonight. Furkan Korkmaz with the baseline jumper. Aw heck, Turkey might as well run it. Korkmaz kept doing it and Semih sure liked it that way as Turkey started to get their groove back.
The heat kept on coming, even as Osman sat for Baris Hersek. Another Semih dunk and the fans here were ready to party. Belgium softened their mood for a while as they started making something out of the offensive scraps available to them. Twice now Turkey had tried to run Belgium off the floor. Twice the Lions found a way back. At the half the home side led 40-33.
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The Lions roared early as a Jonathan Tabu three capped off an 8-0 run to bring Belgium within the minimum. Sarica was leaning on his veterans again, bringing in Hersek and Mahmutoglu to bring some calm early. A pair of bombs from Hersek, the latter ruled a two, did the job as Turkey pawwed away at Belgium whenever they got too close.
Once more Turkey got sloppy once they had a bit of room, giving Belgium some soft second chance opportunities. The Lions didn’t need a second invite as they gobbled up any loose ball in sight before taking the lead. Sarica turned to Sanli for some order, the man he had essentially plucked from obscurity to sign with Besiktas and line out for the national team was there to bring some awkward length against the under-sized Belgians.
Eddy Casteels could see he had Turkey rattled and sought to push the hammer down again while using Maxime de Zeeuw to counter Sanli’s length. That freed up Jean-Pierre Gillet to roam more and find opportunities. Turkey were still up heading into the fourth but it was squeaky bum time as they only held a 55-53 lead.
Nervy. That’s how this fourth quarter started with neither offence looking worth much. Both sides were far more afraid of giving up scores than looking to go out and win the game. Sam van Rossum tied up matters from deep and the home crowd was getting restless.
Korkmaz cam back in as Sarica looked for an option that could rattle the Belgians. The new man of the Philadelphia 76ers had an immediate impact, drawing two trips to the line sandwiching a rebound. His 4 of 4 made it a two possession game but still Turkey looked the side under pressure. Korkmaz forced a Belgian turnover and Melih Mahmutoglu made it count from deep. Now, the question was whether Turkey would slack again after the Lions had roared back so many times.
The three amigos were back on the floor together as Turkey looked to close it out. Korkmaz from deep, a double digit lead. Sipahi followed up inside and ran to the fans in the front row. Belgium, finally, couldn’t respond. Turkey victorious and with a shot at third place in their game with Latvia on Thursday.
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