FIBA World Cup

Lithuania no regrets as rare win over USA leads to abrupt exit: ‘We don’t lose on purpose’

Delfin Dioquino

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Lithuania no regrets as rare win over USA leads to abrupt exit: ‘We don’t lose on purpose’

ALL SMILES. Lithuania's Mindaugas Kuzminskas celebrates with Rokas Jokubaitis after winning against Slovenia in the 2023 FIBA World Cup.

Eloisa Lopez/REUTERS

'It shows that we're honest with ourselves,' says Lithuania team veteran Mindaugas Kuzminskas

MANILA, Philippines – Looking back, a rare win over the USA might have done Lithuania more harm than good in the FIBA World Cup.

The victory – only the Lithuanians’ third over the Americans in history – catapulted the team to the top of Group J and set up a quarterfinal duel with Group I second placer Serbia.

Completing a 5-0 sweep of the group rounds, Lithuania reached the final phase as one of the two remaining unbeaten teams along with Germany only to witness its World Cup dreams crushed by Serbia in an 87-68 loss.

Meanwhile, the USA bounced back and gave Group I leader Italy a 100-63 beatdown to secure its place in the semifinals.

Fans have since wondered what would have happened if the Lithuanians ended up losing to the USA and facing Italy instead in the last eight, but team veteran Mindaugas Kuzminskas has no regrets.

“There are a lot of opinions about that. I agree that Italy would be a better opponent for us, considering the matchups and everything. But I think in our country’s history… we never lost on purpose,” said Kuzminskas.

“I think that’s pride. It shows that we’re honest with ourselves. We lost, but I think I’m happy that we gave everything. Sometimes these things are above everything.”

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Still, Kuzminskas could not help but think about what ifs, especially after Lithuania shot the lights out in its 100-84 win over Slovenia on Thursday, September 7, to advance to the playoff for fifth place.

The Lithuanians put on a shooting clinic against Luka Doncic and weary Slovenia – which played on back-to-back days – as they made 59% of their field goals (38-of-64), including 56% from beyond the arc (14-of-25).

Against Serbia, Lithuania shot just 43% from the field (24-of-56) and 32% from three-point distance (9-of-28).

“In this game, it was a bittersweet moment. We’re making shots, we’re playing good. And then you sit on the bench and you think, ‘What happened two days ago?’ That’s a tough loss for us,” said Kuzminskas.

As the Lithuanians tangle with Latvia in the battle for fifth on Saturday, Kuzminskas tried to put things into perspective.

“When you think about it, how many great teams, Spain, Australia, France, Greece, which are already home, it’s a good result for us,” said Kuzminskas.

“But when you’re eating, you want to eat more and more and more. It’s the same.” –

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Delfin Dioquino

Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.