France gets past Turkey to arrange OQT finale with Canada for berth in Rio Olympics
Nicolas Batum finally suited up for France in the team's semifinal match against Turkey in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Jerome Ascano

FRANCE played true to its billing and blew Turkey away, 75-63, to arrange a showdown with Canada for a berth in the Rio De Janeiro Olympics.

The French pulled away in the third period before turning back repeated rallies by the Turks to win their sudden-death semis encounter at the Mall of Asia Arena Saturday night with plenty to spare.

Les Bleus now faces Canada in Sunday’s finale pitting the two favored teams in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Manila, with the winner of the 9 p.m. match earning a trip to the Rio Games this August.

The French however , lamented having another bad start for the third straight game in the tournament, something which they couldn’t afford against a Canadian side that made it to the finals unbeaten just like them.

“It was a tough game. Give credit to the Turkish team. They played good together, they gave us trouble in the first few minutes of the game,” said team captain Boris Diaw.

“We started again bad, but we corrected it right away,” noted coach Vincent Collet.

The French appeared to have caught by surprise when Turkey simultaneously fielded big men Omer Asik and Semih Erden at the start of the game that they find themselves trailing early on, 13-3.

But veterans Tony Parker, Diaw, and Nicolas Batum, playing his first game in the tournament, quickly right the ship for Les Bleus by sparking 16 straight unanswered points to wrest the lead, 16-13.

From there, the French bench led by Thomas Huertel, took over as the world’s no. 5 team finally controlled the game as expected.

Huertel topscored for France with 17 points on 2 of 3 shooting from three-point range, including one that beat the third quarter buzzer and gave the team a 53-43 lead entering the final 10 minutes.

In all, France had more bench points than Turkey, 42-18.

“That’s the big difference,” Collet pointed out.

Nando de Colo added 13, while Joffrey Lauvergne and Antoine Diot added 11 and 10, respectively  for France, which didn’t see any need for the scoring of Parking (2 pts) and Batum (3 pts).

Asik led Turkey with 19 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Erden added 11, the same output of guard Ali Muhammed.

 “We started the game very well. We dominate the boards and rebounds, but we failed to sustain it,” Turkey coach Ergin Ataman admitted.


The scores

France (75) – Huertel 17, De Colo 13, Lauvergne 11, Diot 10, Gelabale 5, Pietrus 4,Diaw 4, Tillie 4, Batum 3, Parker 2, Moerman 2, Kahudi 0.


Turkey (63) – Asik 19, Erden 11, Muhammed 11, Osman 7, Batuk 5, Arslan 4, Kormaz 3, Mahmutoglu 2, Guler 1, Geyik 0, Sipahi 0.

Quarterscores: 18-16; 37-30; 53-43; 75-63.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos