Italy Face Russian Giants

13.06.2009

By Joseph Wilson

Russia will look to stay perfect on Sunday against an Italy team hungry for a win. 

Italy will have to pull out all the stops to have a chance at stopping the Russian winning machine. 

One key will be getting back their three-point aim to loosen up the inside for drives and a chance at establishing their inside players against a side that blocks almost six shots a game.

Russia, already qualified for the Quarter-Finals, will be playing to keep their record untarnished and to ensure a good seeding for the next round.  

The one area coach Valeriy Tikhonenko may work on is getting his team to protect the ball better. 

Head-to-Head:  Russia beat Italy 60-55 in EuroBasket 2007 on Italy's home turf.

Last Time Out:  Russia beat Belarus 66-51 while Italy fell to Turkey 64-59.

Key Match-Up:  The forwards.  Italy's three scoring forwards Laura Macchi, Raffaella Masciardi, and Simona Ballardini, who combine for 39.6 points per game, versus Russia's attack squad of Ilona Korstin, Svetlana Abramison, Marina Kuzina, and Olga Arteshina who total 38.6 a contest.  The Italian trio have the tough challenge of significantly outscoring their counterparts to compensate for the Russian advantage on the inside.

Key Stat:  11%. That was Italy's three-point percentage versus Turkey.  They need to get back to shooting a Preliminary Round-high 43% to even think about victory.

X-Factor:  Italy only make 3.5 steals a game, worst in the tournament. Can Italy increase the pressure on Russia who are third worst at protecting the ball at 18.8 turnovers per game?

Sounding Off: "[Next game is against] Russia so things are going to be tough, but we can't think about who we are playing against, we have to think about playing better together. Sometimes we kind of loose our focus and try and play one-on-one, but we are a five person team so we have to work and move together as a team." - center Kathrin Ress on what Italy must do.


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