Greece floors China ahead of quarters

BEIJING (AFP) – A determined Greece defeated a feisty Yao Ming-led China in the Olympics basketball yesterday, beating the hosts 91-77 on inspired play from Vassilis Spanoulis, who had 19 points and four assists. With the loss, China will face Lithuania in tomorrow’s quarterfinals, while Greece meets reigning Olympic squad Argentina. Despite falling behind by 24 points in the first half, China came within 10 points with three minutes left, but could not overcome the inside play of Yiannis Bourousis, who netted 19 points and nine rebounds for Greece. «Today we had a very difficult game to play… we tried to pressure them from the beginning to try to make them lose their concentration,» said Greek coach Panayiotis Yiannakis. «In the second half, China played a lot better, they made easy shots, they made a lot of threes and came back, but we didn’t lose our confidence, we played calm and were not nervous and controlled the game at the end.» The towering Yao, who sat out much of the fourth quarter, scored 16 points and had five rebounds for China, which also got 14 points from former Dallas Maverick Wang Zhizhi, who led the host’s second half charge. China’s Lithuanian coach Jonas Kazlauskas defended his decision to sit an obviously angry Yao in the final period when China still had a chance to beat the Greeks, saying it would be better to rest the giant center for the quarterfinals. «If we should be able… to play close from the beginning, for sure Yao Ming should play,» Kazlauskas said. «Yao fought, he wants to play and wants to help us as much as possible, but he is a player and I am the coach, I make those decisions.» Greece opened the game by immediately trapping China’s guards, either forcing them into turnovers or bad decisions. Spanoulis and his back court mate Dimitris Diamantidis repeatedly picked off the ball from the Chinese guards leading to easy baskets for the defending Olympic silver medalists. In the second half, China began hitting three-point shots and pulled within 58-48 and again at 75-65, before the experienced Greek side slowed the tempo and regained control of the game. Spanoulis scored 11 points in the first period to help Greece open up its commanding lead. Forward Antonis Fotsis also had 17 points for the winners. In other quarterfinal match-ups, the United States will go up against Australia, and Croatia will face Spain.