Sandrine Gruda took the game by its horns and marched France to victory
By Joe Hewison
Turning Point: Belarus were trailing by just four (35-31) when Yelena Leuchanka picked up her fourth foul with 3.22 remaining in the third quarter. The next time the center took to the floor, her team were 15 down at 49-34.
Stats Don't Lie: France shot 51.1% from two-point range, demonstrating the number of clear looks at the basket they were able to create.
Game Hero: Sandrine Gruda led all scorers with 18 points as she added shots from range to her dominant post game, stretching Belarus' defence.
Belarus Head Coach Rimantas Grigas pointed to Yelena Leuchanka's foul trouble as one of the deciding factors in his side's 58-50 defeat to France, which saw the hosts take top spot in Group F in Vendee on Sunday.
Belarus had kept pace with the unbeaten French team in the first half despite an incredible shooting performance from Sandrine Gruda, who finished with 18 points.
But the game swung the way of the hosts when Belarus center Leuchanka picked up her fourth foul late in the third quarter.
At that point Belarus were just four behind but without the threat of Leuchanka on both ends of the floor to deal with, France went on a 13-0 run that took their lead to 15 by the time she next checked in.
This was too big of a mountain for Belarus to climb and the defeat saw them slip to third place in the group.
Gricas said: "Yelena is the main center of our team and she played really well.
"It was hard to lose her quality in this game because of the fouls. We lacked a player that could make good decisions in the post and also create dangerous situations in the post.
"We lost a lot with her out of the game and then the French players caught us on the perimeter."
Katsiaryna Snytsina had 16 points for Belarus including a couple of three-pointers, whereas France's outside shooters continued to be inhibited by the pressure of the home crowd, attempting just three shots from beyond the arc.
However, France play-caller Pierre Vincent was pleased with the way his team overcame this latest challenge.
He said: "It is a difficult team to play because they are well organised and they have big abilities to score from inside and outside players.
"It is not too easy to beat this team, they have been at the top level for five or six years."
Isabelle Yacoubou also scored 12 points despite seeing her minutes limited to 16 because of a back problem. But she put this purely down to tiredness and fully expects to be back for the quarter-finals.