|Petteri Koponen showed he can be a leader for Finland, scoring 29 points against Albania|
Finland's opening game of the EuroBasket 2013 Qualification Round was worth the wait as they enjoyed a 112-77 rout of Albania in Helsinki.
Starting two days later than the rest of the their group, Finland were raring to go and raced into a big early lead, leading 19-9 on Matti Nuutinen's three-pointer with 4:17 left in the first quarter and 30-16 on another Nuutinen bomb inside the last two minutes of the period.
Hanno Mottola sank two free throws to start the second period and carry the lead past the 20 mark as they went 39-18 up.
Red Vogli sank a three for Albania midway through the third quarter but it was a rare bright spot and Gerald Lee's jump-shot gave Finland a 54-30 lead soon after. That was the start of a 9-0 Finnish run to the half-time buzzer, with Petteri Koponen's three making it 61-30 at the break.
Finland turned to their bench in the second half, and although Albanian heads may have dropped when Shawn Huff opened the third quarter with another three, they were able to hold their own for the rest of the game, even if they had no hope of making it a contest again.
Gerti Shima and Vogli both had threes in a 12-3 spurt in reponse to Huff's shot, but they were unable to get the lead down to anything less than 25 in the second half.
Koponen led Finland with 29 points while Huff added 19. Mikko Koivisto also chipped in with 11.
Shima had 23 points for Albania and Klaudio Ndoja added 18.
Finland guard Petteri Koponen
"One cannot be overly disappointed, when you win by 30 points. But in all honesty we were soft in the second half after a good first one. There was a chance for a 50-point-win, but we took it. Qualifiers have now been opened on our part too and we got the first win. That's the most important thing. Now we are facing tough match-ups since we know that Poland and Belgium are our main opponents in the group."
Finland head coach Henrik Dettmann
"All was fine as long as we played basketball. When we switched to senior basketball I think there were more mouths running than legs. Now we are turning our attention to Poland. They lost their first game, so it won't be an easy game for them next Tuesday. But it won't be easy for visitors either."
Albania player Afrim Bilali
"Tonight we played against a team, which was 9th overall at the EuroBasket final tournament last summer. We prepared for this game well, and I am rather satisfied with our performance. Still, we were far from our maximum and we will be ready to play much better basketball in the upcoming qualifier games."
Albania head coach Ronald Avrami
"In the first and second quarters, we were extremely nervous and couldn't get our own game going at all. We are a very inexperienced team and didn't know how to play defense against Finland and if they shoot the ball like they did in 1st quarter, they're very difficult to beat. However, I must thank my players for the heart they showed in 3rd and 4th quarters; we adjusted to the tempo of the game and could stop Finland from scoring. We couldn't cut our turnovers, though. We try to minimize our mistakes in the future and play better in the next games."