|09 July 2009|
France soundly defeated Belarus, 87-55, while Russia had no problem handling Sweden 81-43 in their first game of Group D play.
France dominated the game from the field, shooting 64% as a team, with four players in double figures.
Belarus could do nothing to stop France's inside players. Doriane Tahane led the French with 16 points to go along with nine boards and two assists while center Marielle Amant chipped in 15 points and pulled in eight rebounds.
France won the battle of the boards by the count of 55 to 30.
|Natalia Vieru paced the Russian team against Sweden|
Belarus only had one player to break ten points- guard Tatsiana Dashkeich paced her side with 14.
France got out of the gates early with a 22-7 lead in the first seven minutes and never looked back.
Sviatlana Valko brought Belarus to within 15 (41-26) late in the second quarter on a three pointer and a two-point field goal. But a basket by Amant pushed lead to 21 points 45-24 before another bucket by Valko got the deficit under 20 points going into the break (45-26).
Four points by Virginie Bremont gave France their biggest lead of 32 points (65-33) in the third quarter and put the game away.
Aleksandr Kovalev's squad was led by three scorers who combined for 47 points and dominated the inside. Center Natalia Vieru led the way with 16 points, ten boards and three blocks while Evgenia Selyanina matched her with another 16 points. Not to be miss out on the action, Nadezda Grishaeva chipped in 15 points to go along with eight rebounds.
"A first game is always important in an European Championship;" said Russia coach Aleksandr Kovalev.
"We have many young players and this is their first time with the team so it was a good game to win."
The Russian skipper highlighted his team's offensive execution as being key to beating "a good Sweden team". In particular, he was happy with their fast-break attack and their ball movement between the post players and three-point shooters.
Sweden did not have a player with more than six points in the contest and were held to just 25% shooting from the field by a suffocating Russian defense.
Russia opened the contest strong, setting the tone early that they were going to look to their height advantage on the inside.
A Natalia Vieru jump shot gave Russia an early 14-2 lead in the first four minutes of the game.
Two free throws by Sweden's Kathleen Smith got the lead under ten at the three minute mark (17-8), but Russia then went on a run to close quarter up 24-8.
In the first half Russia was led by Selyanina's 12 points and Vieru's ten points and seven early rebounds that sent them into the second half up 44-25.
After the half-time break Sweden collapsed, managing to only score four points in the third quarter against a tough Russian defense that was smelling a blow-out.
Their instinct would prove to be right as they went on to score 24 points over the next ten minutes.
Russia would double Sweden up (50-25) on a shot by Vieru, and then two more buckets pushed lead to 29 points with 6:30 left to play in the third. They extended their lead to 66-29 on back-to-back lay-ups by Nadezda Grishaeva to end the third quarter.
Neither team moved the scoreboard in the first three-and-half minutes of the fourth.
Then an Ekaterina Chistokova jumper put her team up by more than 39 at the 6:30 mark.
Sweden scored seven points to shave the lead to 70-36 with under five to go, but it was far too little and far too late.
A jump shot by Dina Ul'yanova pushed her Russia ahead by forty (78-38) with three minutes to play.
Sweden face the 0-1 Belarus tomorrow while Russia go up against the 1-0 France.
For coach Kovalev, the game tomorrow could not be more important.
"The game against France will probably determine who is first in the group."