Basketball: Penney shines in loss to Lithuania

Kirk Penney, Mika Vukona and Thomas Abercrombie played their hearts out but it was not enough to guide New Zealand to victory in their opening basketball world championship match against Lithuania at Izmir, Turkey, yesterday.

New Zealand went down 92-79 with Penney shooting a game-high 37 points despite constant attention from the Lithuanian defence.

Vukona scored 19 points, pulled in nine rebounds and provided three assists while Abercrombie hauled in 11 rebounds to go with seven points.

It was a powerful 13-2 run at the start of the second quarter and sharp shooting at key moments from Linas Kleiza that secured the win for Lithuania.

Kleiza sank 27 points while Paulius Jankunas, 15, and veteran Jonas Maciulis, 14, were also prominent.

The first quarter was a high quality affair, with both teams executing their offence well before Lithuania took a 25-24 lead to the break. Penney was superb in the first two quarters, racking up 17 points by halftime.

Lithuania forced numerous turnovers to build their match winning run in the second quarter to lead 50-34 at half time.

New Zealand came back in the third quarter to close within single figures on a number of occasions.

But the last five points of the third quarter gave Lithuania a 74-61 lead, and while the Tall Blacks challenged repeatedly throughout the last quarter, they could not bridge the margin.

Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic told the Fiba.com website his team did not play very well.

"We had problems at both the offensive and defensive ends. In spite of the time-outs that we took in the second quarter we could not perform well," he said.

"We tried to play according to our game plan but we could not."

Abercrombie said it had been a tough night.

"Especially in the opening period, we had some problems in defence.

"At the beginning we seemed like we were giving up but then we tried to find our rhythm. We did our best but did not get the result."

New Zealand were scheduled to play their next match against Spain this morning.

- NZPA

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