TURKEY slammed the door on Senegal, 68-62, to complete the semifinal cast of the 2016 Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament on Thursday night.
Guard Ali Muhammed caught fire in the final period by scoring all of the Turks' last 15 points to bail the team out and keep it out of the reach of a gritty Senegalese side.
It was the first win for Turkey after losing its opening game to Canada, but it was enough to propel the team to the No. 2 seed in Group A going to the semis set on Saturday.
As the No. 2 seed, Turkey will face the winner of the Group B match between France and New Zealand later in the night.
Muhammed finished with a game-high 23 points, seven rebounds, and four assists, while Omer Asik and Semih Erden, the Turks’ two 7-foot centers, played together for the first time and combined for 21 points and 17 rebounds.
Still, coach Ergin Ataman wasn’t happy with the way his team has been playing in the qualifiers. He even apologized to the fans who were at the venue and watched the Turks play ‘terrible basketball.’
“It’s unacceptable that were playing with this offensive kind of game,” said Ataman. “The reality is we’re not playing good basketball.”
At least for the final 10 minutes, Muhammed played some good basketball for the Turks.
The American-Turk caught fire just when the Segalese were making one final stand at turning the game around.
After Antoine Mendy nailed a three-pointer for Senegal and made it 50-53, Muhammed began his scoring spree. He completed a three-point play and buried two three-pointers to highlight the 15 straight points he did for Turkey in the last five minutes.
Still, the Senegalese managed to hang on and gave themselves a shot of pulling an upset until missing two crucial three-pointers in the final seconds and trailing 60-66.
“I’m happy that we’ve won, although as a team, we’re not really playing well,” Muhammed said later.
“You know, it’s not easy to talk about basketball after this disaster game,” added Ataman.
Maleye Ndoye had 15 points in leading Senegal, which failed to register a win in two games and became the second team to get eliminated after Gilas Pilipinas.
Turkey (68) – Muhammed 23, Erden 14, Mahmutoglu 8, Guler 8, Asik 7, Korkmaz 5, Batuk 3, Savas 0, Geyik 0, Sipahi 0.
Senegal (62) – Ndoye 15, Ndour 14, Mendy 11, Niang 8, Hannah 6, Ndiaye E. 2, Mbodj 2, Gueye 2, Ndiaye H. 2, Ndoye A. 0, Adams 0, Thomas 0,.
Quarterscores: 10-11; 33-23; 46-43; 68-62.