Sebastian Saiz dominated the airspace around both rims, coralling 13 rebounds, 9 on the ofensive glass to add to his 15 points
Spain held on for a 70-63 victory over Russia in the bronze medal game at the Sportland U20 European Championship on Sunday and registered a record seventh consecutive podium finish in the competition.
TURNING POINT: Russia went without a score during a four-minute stretch bridging the second and third quarters; they only fired three shots during that stretch because they turned the ball over six times, giving Spain all the time in the world to extend their lead from 33-28 to 46-28 and leave them with a mountain to climb the rest of the way.
GAME HEROES: Sebastian Saiz grabbed nine offensive rebounds (13 in total) and his second-chance points, either from the direct basket or the free throw line, kept Spain afloat even when they could not capitalize on their excess of possessions due to low shooting percentages.
STATS DON'T LIE: Russia's turnover count reached 18 in the first 22 minutes of the encounter, rendering useless their good shooting percentage (43.2% to Spain's 37% at that point); Spain could make up for their lack of accuracy by simply having more possessions and taking 17 more shots from the floor. Spain also shot 16 more free throws, as they grabbed 18 offensive rebounds and drew a foul instantly on most occasions.
Spain stepped on the podium of the U20 European Championship in 2007, following a two-year absence, and have not abandoned it since.
They won the bronze medal in Tallinn on Sunday, their seventh consecutive medal in the competition, largely to that accumulated experience that seems to get passed on like a torch from one generation of players to the next.
Spain's steely defence terrorized and suffocated Russia to keep them to just 28 points in the first half, as every other Russian possession seemed to end up in a turnover.
Russia had 15 in the first half and three more early on in the third quarter enabled Spain to grab their 16-point advantage with eight minutes left in the period.
The Iberian lead could have ballooned even further were it not for their poor shooting percentages (36.6 from the floor) but, for some reason, that 16-point gap was enough to serve as a shock to the system for the Russians.
The real Russia showed up on the court only then and chased down Spain, committing only four turnovers in the remaining 18 minutes of the game.
Saiz and Daniel Diez however, already at the young age of 20, are well versed in the special pressure of a medal game; the duo combined for 34 points and 21 rebounds, being largely responsible for Spain's good-as-gold 16 second-chance points.
Spain had to live off that early second advantage until the end, but knew how to do just enough to maintain a healthy margin and celebrate one more European medal.