Gwangju, South Korea Playing for a spot in the World University Games quarterfinals, Lithuania hit big shots in the fourth quarter to beat Australia, 74-67, on Thursday at DongKang College Gymnasium.
Lithuania’s reward for the victory is a matchup with the United States men’s basketball team at noon Saturday (10 p.m. Friday on ESPNU).
“I mean, who wouldn’t be excited?” Lithuania’s 6-foot-10 center Egidijus Mockevicius said. “Of course it’s going to be a tough opponent. We’re going to try to do our best. We’re going to do our scouting.”
Along with its victory against Australia on Friday, Lithuania (4-1) beat Finland, Japan and Chinese Taipei by at least 16 points in pool play. Lithuania’s only loss was a 96-89 setback against France in overtime.
One of the differences in Lithuania’s pool was the different styles of play between all of the teams.
“They’re two different types of teams,” Mockevicius said of Australia and France. “Same as like Taipei and Japan. We have to prepare. The game plan is always different and it happens with … each team. It was kind of weird. For example, in the United States, most of the teams play the same basketball. Asia is just completely different. But we’re excited to advance in the quarterfinals.”
Mockevicius said he knows plenty about Kansas basketball. The senior at the University of Evansville was a first-team All-Missouri Valley selection last year after averaging 14.8 points, 9.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game. His average of 7.7 defensive rebounds per game ranked fourth in the nation last season.
“I try to follow both (the NBA and NCAA),” said Mockevicius, who leads the tournament in field goal percentage (60.5). “During the main season, I watch NBA. During the student season, I watch NCAA. I have no preference of who wins or not.”
In the World University Games, Lithuania is the only team that has scored more points than the Jayhawks. Lithuania is shooting 50.2 percent from the field, including 38.1 percent from deep. Lithuanian sharpshooter Rokas Giedtraitis leads the squad at 14.4 points per game.
What’s been Lithuania’s strength in the tournament?
“Probably togetherness and devotion,” Mockevicius said. “We’ve been together for a really long time so we know each other pretty well. And our coaching staff is just amazing with how much work they do every night — on a daily basis pretty much. We’re just fortunate to have them.
“I mean basketball is always big in Lithuania. This tournament means like a lot to us because it’s probably our last one for most of us. We’re like 22, 23 year old guys and that’s the limit.”
Kansas in Korea: Exclusive coverage of KU basketball at the World University Games from KUsports.com's Bobby Nightengale and Mike Yoder, who are on the ground in South Korea.