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France withstands ugly start, ousts Turkey in OQT semis

By Ivan Saldajeno

PASAY—Just like the previous two outings, France started out flat in their FIBA OQT game on Saturday night at the Mall of Asia Arena.

This time, however, they began way awful.

But like the first two, the Les Bleus recovered, and this time, they won convincingly.

France set up a date with Canada in the final of the OQT with a 75-63 win against Turkey in the other knockout semifinal.

Thomas Heurtel once again took charge in the clutch as the Frenchmen bounced back from a surprise early blitz by the Turkish squad to clinch the other spot in the final.

Coach Ergin Ataman opted to go tall ball versus France, putting Omer Asik and Semih Erden together at the start, and it appeared to have worked as the team went off to a 13-3 lead midway through the first quarter.

But after a timeout, France went on a 13-0 blitz to go up, 16-13, later in the first.

They would begin pulling away in the second, stretching the lead to seven, 37-30, at the half before further swelling it to double digits in the third.

Turkey tried to mount a comeback, chopping the lead back to seven late in the third, but a buzzer-beating triple by France put the lead back to ten, 53-43, to close the period.

That turned out to be the dagger as the Les Bleus, behind Heurtel, extended the lead to as high as 18 in the fourth as Turkey could come to as close as eight at the homestretch.

Heurtel led France with 17 points, 12 in the final quarter, with one rebound, four assists, and one steal.

His endgame heroic prompted Coach Vincent Collet to keep Tony Parker on the bench for the entire final frame.

The closeout also made up for Nic Batum's struggles in his OQT debut.

Batum, whose $120 million deal with Charlotte just became official on Thursday, only made three points, all on free throws, but had two assists and two steals.

Asik had 19 points, five rebounds, one assist, and one steal in his best performance for Turkey in the tournament, but the loss deprived him of a chance to follow up on it.

France and Canada, which beat New Zealand in the first semifinal earlier Saturday, battle for all the marbles and a spot in the Olympics at 9 p.m. Sunday night at the said venue.

Box Scores:

France 75-Heurtel 17, De Colo 13, Lauvergne 11, Diot 10, Gelabale 5, Diaw 4, Tillie 4, Pietrus 4, Batum 3, Parker 2, Moerman 2, Kahudi 0

Turkey 63-Asik 19, Erden 11, Dixon 11, Osman 7, Batuk 5, Arslan 4, Korkmaz 3, Mahmutoglu 2, Guler 1, Sipahi 0, Geyik 0

Quarterscores: 18-16, 37-30, 53-43, 75-63

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno