By Joseph Wilson
Spain and Belarus face off today and the winners will receive the prize of a bronze medal draped around their necks. Belarus will look to repeat their third place finish from 2007 against the reigning silver medallist.
It is a match-up between two of the top stories at EuroBasket 2009. Spain are playing the tournament's most exciting basketball with their run-and-gun style while Belarus had one foot out of the competition before they made an incredible resurgence winning two do-or-die games to make the Qualification Round.
Spain topped Belarus twice in 2007 and many of the same players, especially for Belarus which bring almost the exact same squad, surely remember those encounters.
The key to stepping onto the podium depends on which team can control the tempo. Spain will need to push the pace, cause turnovers, and run up the score. Belarus, on the contrary, will look to slow the game down and get multiple touches for their centers, Yelena Leuchenka and Anastasiya Verameyenka.
Head-to-Head: Spain beat Belarus twice in EuroBasket 2007, first in Preliminary Round, 76-62, and later in the Semi-Finals, 70-54.
Last Time Out: Belarus lost to France 64-56 while Spain fell 77-61 to Russia in their respective Semi-Final matches.
Key Match-Up: Spain's Alba Torrens and Anna Montañana vs. Leuchenka and Verameyenka. The Spanish forwards Torrens (8.6 ppg) and Montañana (16.3 ppg) are the key to their fast-break attack while Leuchenka (10.3 ppg) and Verameyenka (9.4 ppg) are the engines of Belarus's offense.
Key Stat: 25. That is how many balls Belarus turned over against Spain in their Semi-Final loss in 2007.
X-Factor: Spain's Laura Nicholls. The deceptively small center comes off the bench for Spain and let's them fill the floor with five quick ball-handlers who can all finish off the break. If Nicholls is on her game, she will cause major match-up problems for coach Buyalski who will have to play either a slower Marina Kress or the banged-up Tatyana Troina against her in the second unit. Sounding Off: "We have nothing to be ashamed of. We need to get our head up and get ready for tomorrow's game and fight for the medals." - Belarus point guard Natallia Marchanka on her team's motivation for the bronze-medal game.