By Jeff Taylor
When it comes to unpredictability, the Russians reign supreme.
How else can we explain the results this team achieves, or suffers, year after year in women’s basketball?
Last year, for example, they lost against France at the FIBA World Championship in the eight-finals, only to battle back and stun tournament favourites Team USA to reach the gold medal game.
Then with a chance to win the title, Russia slipped up against Australia.
This roller-coaster team has been the same in Italy this year at the EuroBasket Women.
Against Italy, Igor Grudin’s team laboured for 40 minutes before winning by five points.
Then against France, they looked like world beaters for the first 25 minutes but then nearly blew a 17-point lead before holding on for a narrow victory.
|Maltsi will have to be on her game for Greece to have a chance against Russia.|
On Wednesday, with first place already assured, the Russians take on a Greece team that has yet to find any rhythm in two defeats.
Greece have no chance of advancing to the next phase and will play for pride.
Key Match-up: Anastasia Kostaki of Greece v Russia’s Oxana Rakhmatulina. The two guards have played well in this EuroBasket and should provide the crowd in Chieti with a few thrills and spills.
Key Stat: The explosive Evanthia Maltsi, who is to play for Ros Casares Valencia this season after spending a few months in the WNBA with the Connecticut Sun, is averaging just nine points per game in this EuroBasket.
X-Factor: Ekaterina Demagina should get plenty of minutes in a game that has no ramifications for Russia. That will allow the playmaker to state her case for more playing time as the tournament goes on.
Speaking Out: “We know that Russia is one of the best teams in this European Championship. Yesterday (Monday against Italy), they didn’t play so good, I think. I’m ready to play tomorrow (Wednesday). We know they are better, maybe they know we’re not strong, so maybe they will relax” – Greece’s Anastasia Kostaki.