By Jeff Taylor
Russia are heading to the qualifying round of the EuroBasket Women in Italy unbeaten after throttling Greece 86-47 in the last game of Group C action.
Having already clinched first place in the pool, and with the Greeks unable to progress following back-to-back defeats to start the competition, the Russians made quick work of their opponents in Chieti.
Leading 7-6 just over three minutes into the game, Igor Grudin’s team went on a 19-2 run and they cruised the rest of the way.
|Maltsi had all 13 of Greece's first quarter points.|
By the end of the first quarter, Russia led 29-13 with Evanthia Maltsi having scored all of the Greek team’s points.
At half-time, the Russians were in command at 44-22 and there was no way back for the Greeks.
Greece coach Konstantinos Missas said: “Russia is a great team. I think day by day, it will be better and better. It will be in there for the medals for sure.
“We leave the tournament with the experience of those two games against France and Italy, the next two years will get better.”
Maltsi, who will play at Ros Casares this season, said: “The tournament for us is unfortunately over. Unfortunately we couldn’t play basketball.
“Our team worked together, but maybe we found some difficulty here. Teams scout our games, they find our weaknesses, or they press us more. We can definitely play better basketball. We just didn’t show it, including me.”
Russia are the favourites to win the gold medal at the EuroBasket, but that is not their number one aim.
“We hope our basketball will get better and better, we believe in our team and our goal in this tournament is to fight for a ticket for the Olympics,” Grudin said.
Russia won the gold four years ago in Greece, then took Olympic bronze in Athens.
The Czech Republic beat them in the final of the EuroBasket two years ago in Turkey, and last year the Russians upset Team USA in the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championship before falling to Australia in the title game.
While the Russians look a very good bets to win a medal, they insist they are a long way off from playing their best basketball.
Irina Osipova, one of their centers who had a team-high 21 points and 12 rebounds, said after the triumph over Greece: “I’m very happy with the basketball we showed tonight.
“But our offensive rebounds can be much better, and today it was great three-point shooting but we have to keep it at this level.”
Russia finished 10 of 14 (71.4%) from the arc, led by Ekaterina Demagina’s perfect four of four (100%) effort.
Russia out-rebounded Greece 50-26 but only eight of their boards came on the offensive end.
Maltsi had a game-high 22 points for Greece and was six of 11 (54.5%) from the arc, but that was never going to be enough in this contest which was effectively over by the end of the opening period.
“It was difficult for Greece to find motivation for this game,” Grudin said. “Greece did show in this tournament some good basketball because they had close games against France and Italy.
“If Maltsi had been as great (in those games) like this night, I’m sure they would have won both games.”
As for his own team, Grudin said: “We are getting better and better in every game.”