Turkey, Omer Asik top Dominican Republic, advance

by Jim Eichenhofer
@Jim_Eichenhofer

If not for an Aug. 30 FIBA World Cup opener vs. New Zealand in which he only played 10 minutes, Omer Asik may have had a realistic shot at leading all players at the 24-team competition in rebounding average. Instead, the brand-new New Orleans Pelicans center will settle for a top-five ranking in that statistic – and more importantly – a berth by the Turkish national team in this weekend’s Round of 16.

Turkey advanced to the knockout stage Thursday on the strength of a methodical 77-64 victory over the Dominican Republic. The 7-foot, 255-pound Asik was only needed to play 13 minutes this time, but he still managed to squeeze in nine points and 10 rebounds. Turkey led 41-23 at halftime and was never threated in the second half. Asik received limited playing time after intermission, with Turkey holding a commanding lead and playing its third game in as many days.

Earlier this week, Turkey (3-2) appeared on the verge of being eliminated from consideration from the knockout round, but instead closed pool play with back-to-back wins and took second place in Group C, behind only Team USA. Yesterday, Turkey rallied from a 17-point deficit against Finland, before prevailing 77-73 in overtime.

Individually, over the five-game preliminary round, Asik averaged 12.8 points and 9.2 rebounds. In his last three games, his numbers in those categories were 15.7 points and 12.7 rebounds.

As the second-place team in Group C, Turkey is slated to play in the Round of 16 on Sunday, with opponent and tip-off to be announced.