Turkish basketball giants on road to China despite defeat

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The Turkish national basketball team joined their European counterparts to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in China in spite of losing to Montenegro in an away game on Sunday night

Turkish men's basketball team has confirmed its place in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China, despite a 71-66 loss to Montenegro in the European Qualifiers Sunday.

The "12 Giant Men" guaranteed a worst-possible third-place finish in Group I, as it had tiebreakers over Montenegro, Latvia and Ukraine.

With Sunday's result, Turkey is in second place in Group I with seven wins and three losses. Spain topped the group with eight wins and two losses.

From Europe, the three highest-placed teams - out of a total of 12 - from each group will qualify for the World Cup to be held on Aug. 31-Sept. 15 in China.

Turkey hosted the 2010 FIBA World Championship and won a silver medal after losing to the U.S. 64-81 in the final. Prior to that, it beat Slovenia 95-68 in the quarterfinal and beat Serbia 83-82 in the semis.

Separately, Turkey bagged two gold, one silver and three bronze medals in the Mediterranean Games. Currently, Turkey stands 17th in the FIBA World Rankings.

In Sunday's game, Nikola Jovanovic charged the hosts with 21 points and Bojan Dubljevic had a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds as Montenegro improved to 6-4 thanks to their second victory in this window - their fifth in the last six qualifiers - to stay alive in their quest for a first-ever World Cup appearance.

Turkey's Semih Erden and Doğuş Balbay scored 14 points apiece while Scottie Wilbekin added 13 for Turkey.

Ufuk Sarıca, coach of the Turkish national team, struggled to form a strong lineup as Euroleague and NBA games forced many players to skip the national team. Still, it managed to reach the second round in European qualifiers with four wins and two defeats.

In the second round, it secured three wins, the latest being 71-67 victory against Spain. Having veterans skip the national games will also prove to be advantageous for the team, according to Sarıca.

He said that he wanted to tap into a younger generation "to instill them with experience" and train "self-confident players."

The 32-team spots in next year's World Cup is filling up quickly. With nine spots already claimed in this window of games, the total number of qualifying nations has gone up to 16.

The U.S., Argentina, Australia, France, Angola, New Zealand, Korea, Spain and Turkey have qualified in this window of games around that began last Thursday.

They join Czech Republic, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Nigeria, Tunisia and China, who qualified as the host nation.

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