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The Turkey View: Mert Uyar on the World Championships

Turkey has had plenty of good grudge matches in qualifying: against historic rival Greece, nagging opponent Brazil, Lithuania who had never lost to Turkey before, and an Australian team led by Ersan Ilyasova's Milwaukee Bucks teammate Andrew Bogut.

TrueHoop's man in Turkey, Mert Uyar (if you don't know who he is, peruse these posts for the back story) has the skinny after the jump.

12 GIANT MEN!

Since several months, we’ve been waiting for 2006 World Basketball Championship. At last it came. The problems which i talked in my previous article, may be occuring also in this tournament. We were afraid of not being able to play as a team. In reel, it occured exactly the opposite of what we were thinking. While i am writing this article our team got 2nd place in group C. Most importantly, a team which really fights for winning. Players without their ego, desire to win during the whole match besides trailing in score and never leaves competing. That’s what makes us happy. We got the result of fighting and we started with a great victory and we had 4 win 1 lose.

FIRST MATCH! FIRST VICTORY!

In 19th of August, Lithuania, the team which we never beat in our history, was our first opponent in the World Basketball Championship. Lithuania started very good and had 7-1 run in first several minutes. Then, our team began to play better, we grabbed the lead for the first time 4 minutes left in first period. 10-9 Then, the lead changed many times. Ibrahim Kutluay came from the bench and joined Kerem Gonlum and Kaya Peker in scoring. First period ended 19-15. At the second period, Turkey could not defend Songaila. We were not successful in defense but we easily scored. Ersan, Serkan, Ibrahim from outside Kaya, Ermal, Kerem from inside, they scored. Half time buzzer beater 3 pts by Ender Arslan cleared the half time result. 44-40 In the third period, there had two different sides of the game. We had a good start to the second half and we made 6-2 run and grabbed the biggest lead 50-42. Then Lithuania started to play better both in defense and offense. Turkey which had difficulties in scoring, could only make 6 pts until the end of third period while Lithuania made 19 pts. Turkey trailed by 3 pts at the end of the third period 56-59. A good start with Ender’s 3 pts tied the score 59-59. Then, we could not use chances to lead for several times while Lithuania scored 3 pts and grabbed the lead. We started to 10-0 run 6 minutes left for the end of the match. Turkey could not guarantee the score advantage and Lithuania came back with 7-0 run 69-70. Serkan’s 2 pts led Turkey again when 1.59 minute left. Maciajuskas’ 2/2 FT led his team again. Ender stole the ball and made 2/2 when 17 seconds left. Turkey’s tough defense did not give chance to score and Turkey started with an outstanding victory. 76-74 Ibrahim scored 16 pts, Ersan Ilyasova with 11, Serkan Erdogan with 10 pts and Kaya Peker with 9 pts helped captain Kutluay. Kaya also made 2 wonderful block, he rejected 2 fastbreaks of Lithuania. Beside sitting at the Hornets bench during the whole year, Macijauskas had a good game with 24. Songaila with 10 pts, Darjus Lavrinovic with 8 pts helped to score.

WHO IS THE REAL BUCKS STAR ?

In the second day of the tournament, Turkey met Australia. Australia is a team much more experienced than Turkey in this kind of international tournaments. Additionally to this, a very young and unexperienced squad came to Japan 2006 but young Turkish players put their heart for the game and won. 76-74 David Andersen of CSKA Moscow was missing this tournament because of his injury in Australia side. We closed first period by leading 6 pts 18-12, however, we could not keep leading at the second half. C.J Bruton took the control and scored 9 pts from behind the arc and Australia reached half-time with 14 pts advantage. We did not have to lose hope, contrarily, we had to fight and our team did it. Ersan opened the second half with a three pointer. Turkey reduced the Australia lead in 3 minutes. Eventhough its run, Australia led at the end of third quarter 55-49. Another good start came just at the beginning of the fourth period. Kerem started, Ibrahim and Ersan kept scoring in the fourth period. We led by 2 when several minutes left. Captain scored his second back to back three pointer 65-63. Then Ibrahim Kutluay and Ersan made 5/5 FT, 70-65, finally Kerem Gonlum cleared the result of the match, Turkey did a great come back and won the match 76-68. While Bogut was not able to lead his team , U20 European Championship MVP, future Bucks star Ersan Ilyasova made 17 pts helped his team to win. Whole team competed well and thanks to rigid defense, Turkey kept going unbeaten.

REVENGE OF 2002

It was 30 of August 2002, 2001 European Championship silver medal winner, Turkey was defeated 86-88 by Machado’s lucky buzzer beater 3 pointer shot. Including that official match, Turkey has never beaten Brazil in recent 5 matches, until 24th of August 2006. Both teams started very well, especially our team made a high percentage from behind the arc 4/6. Brazil also scored with Splitter, Barbosa, Machado. First period ended 25-23. Turkey took the control at the second half and pulled away the lead by 10 pts. However Brazil survived and reduced the lead 43-37. Third period was a nightmare for Turkey. We could not answer to Brazil’s high level of competition and trailed by 2 pts at the end 58-56. Just at the beginning of final period, we made a good run and took the lead. (61-60) There were an excellent fight for victory in both sides. Score is tied at 64 when 4:13 left. Then Captain scored 4 pts, 2/2 FT and made 68-66. Barbosa made 1/2 FT, then Ermal scored a significant from the paint.over Barbosa. 70-67. Barbosa reached 2/2 FT and Brazil trailed by 1(70-69). In final minute of the game, we could not use the chance to score, however Eddie Rush took a harsh decision, gave Barbosa 2 pts chance when 6 seconds left. Tanjevic used 2 back to back time-outs. Barbosa missed them both. Ermal made 2/2 FT, 72-69. Machado also made 2/2 FT, 72-71. Ender Arslan was fouled 1.8 s left, he made 1/2 FT and Varejao tried to shoot but Turkey got an excellent victory and kept going STILL unbeaten. 73-71

In the fourth day, Turkey had a training game against Qatar. Turkey’s starting 5 was: Hakan Demirel-Cenk Akyol-Ersan Ilyasova-Kerem Gonlum- Fatih Solak. Ender Arslan, Engin Atsur, Semih Erden, Kaya Peker and Ermal Kurtoglu also played. Qatar led in the first minute then it is tied at 9. From that moment Turkey never trailed. The biggest lead (47-25) in half time occured when 2:40 left. After 10-2 Qatar run, half time ended 49-35. The game’s biggest lead was in the third quarter. Tough defense resulted in easy scoring. 63-39. Another 10-2 run by Qatar cleared the third quarter score 65-49. Qatar tried to catch our team, but could not succeed. Eventhough to 11-20 Qatar lead, Turkey won its fourth game straight. Score is divided and our every player helped in scoring. Engin led in scoring with 12 pts. Ender and Cenk with 10 pts. Hakan with 9 pts, 4 rebs, 4 assists also Ersan with 9 pts. Kerem Gonlum with 7pts 8 rebs. The goal was to win and we did it. A nice training match for leadership match against Greece.

The last game of the first group was the most exciting game in my opinion. Unbeaten teams of group C met each other. Both teams had important leakages. In Turkey side, Ersan sit on the bench for the final game of group. At the other side Aegean Sea, Zizis ruled out of the tournament because his facial injury. A bad collision with Varejao resulted in injury. Hakan-Serkan-Cenk-Kaya-Fatih was the starting 5 of our team. In first several minutes, we trailed 11-4. Tanjevic had to take a time-out. After the time-out, 4 subsitution done. We trailed by 8 (15-7)while 4 minutes left for the first period to end. From that moment, 12-9 Turkey run reduced the Greece lead. Serkan also scored a buzzer beater from near mid court. Schortanitis played well and scored from paint. Eventhough to Kakiouzis and Schortanitis’ good performance, we grabbed the lead and pulled it away. Another last second shot came from Ibrahim. Captain cleared the half time result and Turkey led by 5 (42-37). What an extraordinary terrible third period for Turkey and 17-5 Greece run during the whole period. Just turnovers and Greece fastbreaks, that was all we watched. 54-47 was the result of third period. In the final period, Greece fleed, Turkey ran after. Ender’s 3 pts reduced the lead even 1 pt but Kakiouzis quickly replied. Serkan’s 2 straight 3 pointers equalized the score 67-67. Vassilopoulos scored high importance 3 pts from while the score were tied at 69. Kutluay could not succeed the most significant 3 pointer of the match. It came off the rim. Spanoulis was fouled and made 2/2 FT. Ermal also missed the last 3 pointer. Spanoulis again made 2/2 FT and cleared the result. Greece made a final 7-0 run. 76-69. Serkan had an outstanding game with 30 pts. Ibrahim could only score 6 pts. Terrible third period team performance made us lost this game.

We never thought that we qualify in the second place from this group. This was the most difficult group in my opinion. We could have qualified as a first. We lost against Greece. Eventhough, we always believe in our team. We still believe. Eventhough Ersan’s missing against group D4, Slovenia, we will beat and qualify for the next stage. If we eliminate Slovenia, we will meet Argentina. One of the strongest candidate for the world championship title. I hope we’ll meet Argentina in quarter finals. Our match in 16finals is Saturday 11am with Turkey hour. I wish luck for our team.

MERT UYAR