Aleksey Savrasenko and JR Holden teamed up to lead Russia to victory over Hungary in the opening game of EuroBasket 2007 qualifiers in Perm.
Savrasenko scored 14 of his 17 points on a perfect 7/7 shooting in the first half, while Holden took over in the second, netting 16 of his game-high 21 as Russia eased to an 82-62 win.
The victory was a perfect start to the reign of new Russia coach David Blatt.
|David Blatt got off to the perfect start in his new job with the Russian national team|
Russia finished in 8th place in the tournament, which not only meant missing out on a FIBA World Championhip berth, but going through the qualifiying stages of EuroBasket 2007 in Spain.
With Blatt on board, the focus is firmly on the future and Russia took the the first step towards a place in Spain with a convincing display against a Hungary side which is looking to get to its first EuroBasket since 1999.
Despite Russia's status as favourites to win, it was the Hungarians who had the better start to the game.
26-year old forward Marton Bader led the Hungarian charge and he scored 7 points in the first quarter in which Hungary established an 18-17 lead.
Savrasenko erupted into life in the second quarter, scoring a quick lay-up and then getting baskets off assists from young guard Anton Ponkrashov and Holden as Russia opened with a 6-0 run, 23-17.
Hungary replied with buckets from center Robert Gulyas and Akos Horvath to cut the lead from six points to four, but an alley-oop dunk from the 217 cm Savrasenko sparked another Russia run.
Russia outscored Hungary 15-8 to close the quarter, and two free throws from Holden gave his team a 42-29 lead at the halftime break.
Hungary threatened to get back into the game in the third period, closing to within 5 points (47-42) on a Balázs Simon three-pointer midway through the quarter, but that was the cue for Holden to step up.
The CSKA Moscow guard scored 8 points in five minutes and Russia re-established a firm grip on the contest, 61-47.
Holden hit his final 8 points of the game in a 13-6 Russia run to open the fourth period. His last bucket left Russia in front 74-55 with five minutes to go and well in control.
Russia travel to Belgium for the next qualifying game while Hungary face Czech Republic at home.