If the Dominican Republic is to make the Olympics for the first time in the country’s history, the historic breakthrough will have to wait another day.
Lithuania, ranked No. 5 in the world by FIBA, denied John Calipari’s team a berth in the Olympics with a 109-83 victory on Saturday in the semifinals of the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.
“Lithuania is a very good team and we didn’t have much room for error,” Calipari said. “This one is on me and I’ll be better tomorrow.”
While Lithuania qualified for the Olympics, the Dominicans’ dream is not over. They will have one final shot to make the Olympics in the third-place/fourth-place game on Sunday against Nigeria. That game is set for an 8 p.m. ET tip
The Dominicans, who got off to slow starts in their previous three games, started much faster against Lithuania. Francisco Garcia, who scored 28 in the victory over Macedonia, picked up where he left off Friday with two early 3s, but two quick fouls forced him to the bench.
The Dominican Republic tied the score at 21-21 early in the second quarter, but the offense went downhill after Al Horford, the team’s leading scorer, picked up his third foul. Lithuania went on a 14-2 run after the Dominicans tied it and never looked back.
“Early foul trouble really set us back but our guys tried hard,” Calipari said. “I have to do a better job with our game plan and making in-game adjustments.”
Shooting 63.9 percent from the field and 21 for 24 at the free-throw line, Lithuania increased its lead to as much as 29 in the second half. The Dominicans cut the Lithuania advantage to 13 in the third quarter, but the disparity in the shooting numbers proved to be too much to overcome.
The Dominican Republic hit just 38.6 percent of its shots, and only four players, led by Jack Michael Martinez’s 13 points, scored in double figures.
Saturday’s result could prove to be insignificant for the Dominican Republic if Coach Cal’s team can defeat Nigeria on Sunday. The Nigerians, ranked No. 21 in the world, lost to Russia on Saturday, but they shocked the top team in the tournament, Greece, to make the semifinals.
Like the Dominican Republic, Nigeria has never made the Olympics. One way or another, history will be made Sunday.