IZMIR (FIBA World Championship) – A disciplined 24-13 final quarter and the brilliance of stalwart Fadi El Khatib have delivered an emotional 81-71 victory over Canada in Izmir, which they celebrated with their vocal fans.
For much of the game Canada looked the better team, but a stunning second half display by El Khatib (31 points, 8 rebounds) and strong support from point guard Rony Fahed (17 points) and Matt Freije (12 points, 4/7 three pointers) allowed Lebanon to record their come-from-behind victory.
For Canada, Joel Anthony was a force inside with 17 points and 6 rebounds, and received support from Andy Rautins (10 points), Denham Brown (13 points) and Levon Kendall (11 rebounds).
Crucially, Lebanon restricted Anthony and Rautins, who were dominant in the first half, to just two field goal attempts in the final quarter.
Both teams promised to play quick and in the first quarter they delivered, thrilling the large crowd in Izmir. Rautins nailed two big three pointers early, which were answered in kind by Lebanon big man Matt Freije.
Canada broke free after quarter time and consecutive Anthony baskets gave them a 30-25 lead. But Lebanon answered to draw even to set the trend for the next two quarters.
Canada started the third term with a 7-1 run, but Lebanon answered immediately through back-to-back threes from El Khatib and Fahed.
Canada then responded with two of their own to take a 52-44 lead with 4:45 to play, but El Khatib would not let his team lie down, scoring at will near the basket on his way to 16 points for the quarter to bring Lebanon within one.
The last quarter was all Lebanon, who executed in the half court and coolly converted important free throws, leaving Canada coach Leo Rautins to lament his team shooting 2/9 from the perimeter in the final term and a 26-11 foul count.
Lebanon faces France tomorrow at 6:30pm, while Canada will regroup to take on Lithuania at 4pm.