From PA International, Budapest
Hungary avoided a morale-sapping defeat to Russia in their last game of the Grenoble tournament to make sure the feel-good factor remained in the national team camp.
Laszlo Ratgeber’s troops entered the tournament on a six-game winning streak but they were swept aside in their opening two contests in the foothills of the Alps to hosts France and Australia, 78-51 and 70-59, respectively.
Against Les Bleues, Hungary dug themselves an early hole and were never in contention after.
France streaked out to a 24-8 first-quarter lead and were in control for the rest of the game.
A loss ended up being on the cards against the Australians, too.
Ratgeber’s players had beaten the Aussies 69-53 in Greece earlier this summer but a decisive 21-9 second quarter spurt for the Opals propelled them to victory.
A combination of sloppy Australian play and defensive pressure from Ratgeber’s players did manage to keep the game close as the Opals turned the ball over 27 times but the low post concerns Ratgeber has been talking about all summer were evident again as the Australians grabbed 17 offensive rebounds.
Hungary have been hoping centre Eva Seres gets over a foot injury. Ratgeber is no doubt expecting that once she is fully recovered, the Hungarians will have added toughness on defence in the lane.
Size in the middle is a concern, though, especially with centre Krisztina Papp looking as if the nerve problems in her feet aren’t going to heal in time for the championships.
Against the Russians, they were in danger of a third setback when trailing 45-31 at half-time but Ratgeber’s women hit back spectacularly for a 65-61 victory.
Seres and Andrea Karolyi each scored 12 points for Hungary in the win.
One constant for Hungary this summer has been solid defensive play, the key ingredient in their six-game winning streak.
“If we are able to rely on our defence, we might go very far,” said Ratgeber before the Grenoble tournament.
Defence alone, though, will not beat always beat the top teams in the world as losses to France and Australia proved.