ISTANBUL, Turkey - Having a haircut is a traditional way in China to bring about good luck or a new start.
Houston Rockets center Yao Ming likes to cut his hair or beard before significant games. He did so before the Beijing Olympics and led China to eighth place, matching its best performance at that level.
China head coach Bob Donewald Jr did the same thing in Ankara on Thursday morning. Some hours later, his team dramatically advanced into the knockout round of the FIBA World Championship.
While he denied he did it on purpose, the coach admitted China needs luck to upset a strong Lithuania team in the last 16 on Tuesday.
"I cut it in the morning of our game against Turkey," Donewald said. "We will see what kind of luck it will bring us. But I don't know. My wife saw my picture on the Internet and she said, 'You need to have you hair cut because it seems terrible.' So I cut it."
China surprisingly made the knockout round when Cote d'Ivoire defeated Puerto Rico 88-79, a game that took place before China faced Turkey.
Cote d'Ivoire needed to win by 12 points, though, and the nine-point margin gave China the edge as all three teams finished with 1-4 records. China finished with a positive point differential, while Puerto Rico and Cote d'Ivoire each allowed one more point than they scored.
Against Lithuania, though, China needs to deliver more than what it showed in the group stage.
"Lithuania is the top the team in their group and the players are in great form. We are very impressed. They move the ball, they play tough in the defense and they play great teamwork," Donewald said. "They also have outstanding individuals and they can get through when they need a bucket.
"We know we are against one of the best teams in this tournament. We have a lot of respect for them. We are trying to get better every day and play even harder on the court. We are all looking forward to it. It would be a great challenge for us."
Not content to rely on luck and hard work, the coach is also anxious to learn if the injured Yi Jianlian is ready to return to the court.
An inflamed Achilles's tendon slowed the Washington Wizards forward during the Puerto Rico game. He underwent an MRI on Friday and still requires the green light from the team doctor.
"Yi had an MRI on Friday and it turned out positive," Donewald said. "But we still have to rest him a little bit more. We are lucky to play on Tuesday rather than play earlier."
Yi, who is in the top three in scoring and rebounding in the tournament, admitted he was unsure of his status.
"It's not a bad injury, but I still have to wait and see if I can get fully fit in time," he said.