By Yarone Arbel
The last day of the qualifying round saw a very even-keeled team from Belarus upseting the nervous Italians, a big domination by the Russian twin towers against Spain that covered for a very bad first half of both sides and a great French professional spirit that was enough to hide a horrible day from long range.
The Good News
Belarus Coolness - Two years ago they still played in Division B. Now Belarus is among the top eight teams in Europe. In the closing seconds of the win over Italy it was impossible to tell the difference between the Belarus and Italian benches. Despite a sure double-digit lead the Belarus team waited until the final buzzer to start celebrating. Even then it was a very minor party compared to what you usually see from teams who complete such a long road, especially in their first ever EuroBasket performance. But what really shows their cool under fire was their free throw percentage as they missed only one shot out of 14.
French Spirit - One good word must go to the French team for their game against Serbia. Coming into the game they knew they could afford a 19 point loss and still make it to the next round. Often we see teams, especially in home-road series, come with a different approach to the game knowing they can lose by a big margin and still advance. In the opening minutes that was the case. Serbia took a nine point lead, but even without a timeout the French team realized their need to wake and step up. From that point on France played with all their intensity, and dominated the paint.
|Emilie Gomis and France struggled shooting the basketball against Serbia but managed a win.|
Twin Towers Domination - Russia's twin towers - Maria Stepanova and Irina Osipova - showed their great domination in Russia's win over Spain. After a bad first half for both sides they combined for 17 points of Russia's 21 third quarter points. They didn't miss a single shot from the field in that period. Each made all four of her shots with Osipova added a point from the line. That still wasn't enough for the win. Russia won the game with big effort on defense in the fourth, but still an example of how many tools Russia will have as they head into the final round.
The Bad News
Zero Hits - France beat Serbia 68-60 and finished third in their group, but at least in one aspect wouldn't like to remeber this game. In 40 minutes they failed to hit a single shot from long distance. At the end of the game France was zero out of 10 on three-point shots. They missed four in the first, and added a pair in each of the following quarters.
Spain and Russia's First Half - It was suppose to be one of the best games of this round between two of the best teams here, but the first half of Spain - Russia wasn't a pleasent sight. Yesterday we mentioned Germany grabbing more rebounds than scoring points as a rare and a bad thing. In this first half both teams did the same. Spain had 22 points and 24 rebounds while Russia was on 24 points and 27 rebounds. Each of the teams shot less than 25% from the field including no less than five airballs. In the second half both picked up their game (The third quarter score was 21-20), but that first half is something that not many people would like to remember.
Italy Got Lost - Their must-win game against Belarus seemed to have put too much pressure on the hosts. While Belarus played it cool, Italy was anything but calm. Italy finished the first half down by eight but was still in the game. Once Belarus started to put some distance between themselves and their opponents Italy focused on shooting three-pointers and forgot the rest of the game. In the third quarter itself Italy took five shots from two point range and no less than 11 from long range. The worst part was they didn't hit even one of those 11 attempts. Leading that list were Laura Macchi and Raffaella Masciadri, who finished the game with a combined number of zero out of 12 on three-point attempts, five of them were in that third period.