Russia upset the reigning World and European Champions Serbia & Montenegro in an 80-95 win in the opeing game of group C in Södertälje.
Russia played a prefect game in the second half of the game, outscoring the heavy favourite Serbia-Montenegro 35-48 after the intermission.
Russia relied heavily on their biggest star, Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko. Kirilenko had a superb game; logging 37 minutes of playing time, scoring 29 points, grabbing 10 rebounds and also serving up a couple of big blocks on the defensive end. However the hero for the Russian team was another lesser know player: Fedor Likholitov, a 23 year old center without much previous experience from national team play. Kirilenko scored only 6 of his 29 points in the second half and drew his fourth personal foul at the end of the third quarter.
Serbia-Montenegro got as close as within 2 points, 69 - 71, in the fourth quarter, but they never came closer than that. That is when Likholitov stepped up for Russia.
Likholitov scored the next 7 points for Russia. First he completed a three point play, after being fouled by Serbian power forward Ostojic, who fouled out on the play. After that he provided the biggest highlight of the game, a monsterous dunk after being trapped right under the basket. Likholitov continued his heroics with 2 more points, pushing the Russian lead up to 78-69. After this run Serbia-Montenegro never got back in the game again.
Likholitov finished the game with 14 points, 13 of them coming in the second half, on 6 of 10 shooting from the floor. Other strong individual performances for Russia were provided by guards Vassili Karassev, 16 points, and Zakhar Pachoutine, 12 points. They combined to shoot 4 of 5 from 3-point territory.
For Serbia-Montenegro the pressure on Sacramento Kings superstar Peja Stojakovic was heavy before the game. He did not live up to his reputatuion in this game. He did score 17 points, but only 3 of them came in the second half. He shot horribly from the field, finishing 5 for 21 (2 for 7 on threes) for the game.
The only players who had above average performances for Serbia & Montenegro was center Predrag Drobnjak, 18 points and 8 rebounds, and forward Milan Gurovic, 14 points and 8 rebounds. However in the second half Drobnjak was the only one producing for Serbia-Montenegro, and that was not enough against a fired up Russian team on this day.
Russia shot incredible well throughout the game, 18 - 30 for 60 % on 2-pointers and 11 - 20 for 55 % on 3-pointers. Serbia & Montenegro on the other hand shot terrible, 19 - 48 on 2-pointers and 9 - 24 on 3-pointers. The reason they got so many more attempt than Russia was the fact that they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds.