Missouri’s interim public announcer, having to pronounce new Lithuanian names, isn’t the only one who had a tough night Tuesday.
Just ask Missouri’s Linas Kleiza.
Kleiza, a native of Kaunas, Lithuania, had his least productive night of the season while facing three players from his home country. But the Tigers still defeated American 64-51 at Mizzou Arena.
Kleiza played 35 minutes, turned the ball over five times and finished with just five points, on 0-for-6 from the field.
“I wasn’t feeling ready for this game,” Kleiza said. “I just didn’t get myself ready and took them for granted a little bit. They’re good and I just got distracted by all the other stuff, people from my country and stuff.”
Before the game, American’s Lithuanian contingent of Arvydas Eitutavicius, Linas Lekavicius and Raimondas Petrauskas got the chance to talk with Kleiza and did a little trash talking.
“They were confident,” Kleiza said. “They thought they were going to beat us down here but it didn’t happen.”
The players also exchanged shots on the court.
Early in the first half as Kleiza positioned himself in the block, Petrauska gave him a little nudge and picked up his second foul.
Kleiza missed the free throw and on the Eagles’ next possession Petrauskas made him pay for the miss and a defensive lapse.
Catching Kleiza off guard, Petrauskas cut toward the basket, took Jason Thomas’ pass and scored an easy layup.
After the game, Petrauskas, who finished with four points and three rebounds, wasn’t hesitant to talk about the physicality of the game.
“It was kind of physical,” Petrauskas said.
“Show him your lip, show him what happened to your lip where it was bleeding and stuff,” Lekavicius said.
“Nah,” Petrauskas replied.
Although Petrauskas didn’t want to talk about it, Lekavicius didn’t blame him because even he wasn’t about to go inside.
“I didn’t want to go inside too much because there was something going on over there,” Lekavicius said. “I just didn’t want to get squished in, you know.”
The similarities between Kleiza and Petrauskas were striking. Both showcased buzzed heads and solid builds. But Kleiza is listed as an inch taller and two pounds lighter than Petrauskas.
Their birth dates reveal the most telling difference.
Born Oct. 4, 1979, Petrauskas, 25, is five years older than Kleiza.
Aside from the summer, Kleiza said this is the first time he’s gotten the opportunity to play with people from Lithuania.
Lekavicius, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, played with Kleiza on a 20-and-under team this past summer in Czech Republic, where the two were roommates.
“It’s always good to see him, he’s one of my good buddies,” Kleiza said. “It definitely feels nice just to talk to him.”
They also played together two summers ago on an 18-and-under team in Greece. This upcoming summer they will play together in the world championships.
“There’s a lot of stories (from this summer) but I don’t want to put those in the paper,” Lekavicius said. “I’m just happy being on the same court with him, playing against him and with him.”