Turkey, Omer Asik top Dominican Republic, advance

by 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.