Russia celebrated a great 75-61 win over Serbia and marched into the quarter-finals in the closing game of the day in Group F of the OMNITEL U18 European Championship at Siemens Arena in Vilnius, Lithuania on Tuesday night.
|Dmitry Kulagin is carrying a Russia team that looks ready to go all the way|
With this win Russia improved to 3-1 on top of the group with Greece as tomorrow the two sides will go head-to-head for the top spot of the group.
Serbia dropped to 2-2 alongside Croatia in the 3rd spot and will face Italy tomorrow, in hope to stay among the top teams and qualify to the quarter-final stage.
"Last year in the U16 championship this team played great but lost to Serbia in the quarter-finals in overtime," said Sergey Skorochkin of the Russian bench.
"We told the players that they can't fear the Serbians if they want to win, and that's how we played from start to finish."
Dmitry Kulagin scored 23 points and added 8 assists with 5 steals to carry Russia for the win, while Sergey Karasev added 12 points and the duo forwards Alexander Tikhonin and Vladislav Trushkin scored 10 point each.
Nikola Siladi led Serbia with 16 points and Bogdan Bogdanovic finished with 12 and 3 blocks.
Kulagin was on fire from the start and score all the first 9 points of Russia, all from the three point line, to register a 9-2 lead.
Karasev showed he has the same skills and Tikhonin completed another three point play, this time inside the arc, to make it 15-10 still for Russia.
Trushkin combined 5 in a row to open a 10 point gap, 30-20 and the zone defense of Russia held Serbia at just 2 points in 5 minutes, enough to reach the break with a 36-25 lead.
Bogdanovic didn't find his spot on the arc, but saw Siladi score from distance, yet Kulagin took over the game with big rebounds and assists leading Russia to a 57-42 after an alley-hoop dish to Tamirlan Bekkiev inside the 29th minute.
Siladi tried to make a difference and his dunk cut the margin to 8, but once again the Russian guard stepped up and with 5 points in a row kept Serbia behind 66-56 inside the last 5 minutes.
Serbia made one last effort, but the hot hand of the night wasn't shy to punish again and a dunk by Karasev put the cream on top of a big win.