Turning point: Leading 66-63, Russia forced F.Y.R.O.M. into a 24 second violation turnover with 56 seconds left and then Anton Ponkrashov made two foul shots for a five-point lead. F.Y.R.O.M. did not get closer than one point the rest of the way.
Hero: Timofey Mozgov. The Russian big man collected 25 points and 11 rebounds while hitting 11 of 17 shots in the game.
Stats: Russia made 18 of 25 free throws including five of six in the final 33 seconds.
Defending champions Russia are returning to the Quarter-Finals for the ninth consecutive time after beating F.Y.R. of Macedonia 71-69 in Qualifying Round Group E action for a spot in the final eight in Katowice.
|Timofey Mozgov led the way for Russia with 25 points and 11 rebounds.|
"We needed to look really far down deep in ourselves to win that ball game because it was looking pretty bleak. But in the end, we found it. And I am proud of what we have done and am looking forward to next stage,'' said Blatt, whose team out-rebounded F.Y.R.O.M. 42-32 including 16 offensive rebounds.
"Today was a very, very tough game. Everyone understood that we must win to reach the quarterfinals. (F.Y.R. of) Macedonia also showed very good basketball and it was hard to perform against their tough defense. But in the end we found a way," said Ponkrashov.
Russia could finish second in Group E if Greece lose later Tuesday against France in Bydgoszcz.
F.Y.R.O.M. had a valiant effort, paced by 19 points and 10 rebounds from Pero Antic and 16 points each from Vrbica Stefanov and Todor Gechevski. But Jovica Arsic's team will exit the tournament with a 1-4 record in the Qualifying Round group.
"We had a lot of problems stopping Mozgov on his offensive rebounds. We played tough for 40 minutes. But the better team is going to the quarter-finals," said Arsic.
"We did everything we could to win this game. We tried to play 40 minutes of defense. We didn't forget that we were playing against Russia, but it was great that we were in the game," said Stefanov, who will be retiring from the game.
"You won't see many more like him. I'm glad I don't have to coach any more against him," said Blatt of Stefanov.
F.Y.R.O.M. made just one of their first five shots but went ahead 5-4 on Stefanov's first three-ball. And it was tied at 8-8 after an Antic triple. Russia created three turnovers in four possessions to lead 14-10 after one period.
Jeremiah Massey's three-point play trimmed the margin to 16-14 before Russia went on a 14-7 run with Mozgov and Vorontsevich combining for 10 points to give Blatt's men a 30-21 advantage.
Stefanov and Antic both knocked down triples and F.Y.R.O.M. were within 33-29 at intermission.
Arsic's team received a spark off the bench from Damjan Stojanovski with a long jumper and three-pointer in a 13-5 start to the second half to give F.Y.R.O.M. a 42-38 lead.
Russia reeled F.Y.R.O.M. back in though back-to-back dunks by Sergey Monya and Vorontsevic could not help the teams from being knotted at 49-49 after three quarters.
After Russia had opened a 53-49 gap, Gechevski nailed a three-pointer and converted a three-point play in a single time down the court as Vorontsevich's foul after the triple had given the ball back to F.Y.R.O.M., who opened a 57-53 margin.
Sergey Bykov nailed a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down and Mozgov came up with a follow dunk as Russia remained three points ahead.
Already up 66-63, Russia forced a 24 second violation and Ponkrashov's foul shots opened a five-point gap with 33 seconds left. Antic's three-point play would bring F.Y.R. of Macedonia to within 69-68, but Vitalii Fridzon made two free throws with 11.5 seconds left before Dimitar Mirakovski made just one of two with 7.6 seconds to play and missed a possible game-tying layup at the buzzer.
Vrbica Stefanov (F.Y.R.O.M.):
"We played a great game. I believe we played great defense. If we had played overtime it would have been great. If we had won it that would have be greater, but I'm still proud of us."
Anton Ponkrashov (Russia):
"Maybe at the beginning of the tournament few people believed in our team, but we made a second step and now we are in the Quarter-Finals. F.Y.R.O.M. played a very good game. Today we missed a lot of three-point shots. But we compensated that with defense."
Jovica Arsic (F.Y.R.O.M. Coach):
"I would like to thank all our fans and friends that supported us during this tournament. We started with Samardzic playing much better on defense but without him we had more options in offense. It's a pity we lost Gacevski in the end. Riste Stefanov and Stojanovski didn't feel good so we had huge problems."
David Blatt (Russia Coach):
"F.Y.R.O.M. deserve a lot of credit. They played a great game. When you make three-pointers it changes a game a lot. F.Y.R.O.M. took advantage of that. But in the end we proved ourselves better. It was a tough game against a very tough team. It was a tricky game for both of us. I'm proud of my team. Vrbica did I hear that you're retiring? I take my hat off to you and wish you all the best for your future."