Russia Drop Final Game, Still Advance


Russia suffered a 64-65 loss to Slovenia in their preliminary round game at the ACI Trading Ltd U20 European Championship Men in Chekov.

Despite the reverse, Russia still qualify to the quarter-final round as the top team in Group C by virtue of their wins against Croatia and France.

Egor Vyaltsev (Russia)
Egor Vyaltsev had 2 shots to win the game
With the group win already in the bag, Russia lacked motivation and it showed on the court. Slovenia grabbed an early lead and retained a double digit advantage for most of the opening 3 quarters.

But buoyed by the 1,000 home supporters in attendance, Russia came storming back in the final quarter.

They outscored Slovenia 15-3 in the opening 7 minutes of the period and with a 62-59 advantage, looked favourites to win.

Slovenia, however, refused to buckle.

Mirza Begic and Jan Rozman held their nerve at the free throw line and Jure Mocnik added a clutch lay-up which gave Slovenia a 1-point lead (64-65) with 22 seconds remaining.

Although Russia had the momentum on their side and the home support in their favour, coach Evgeny Pashutin will be slightly concerned about his side's inability to execute down the stretch.

Pashutin's troops had plenty of time to set up a game winning effort, but despite getting off two attempts, were unable to come up with a high percentage shot.

Responsibility for the final effort was given to rising star Nikita Kourbanov, but instead of shooting he tried to create an open look for team-mate Nikita Shabalkin. Shabalkin elected to pass and the ball ended up in the hands of point guard Egor Vyaltsev, who took an ill-advised three-pointer.

Kourbanov managed to grab the loose ball after a scrabble for the rebound and Vyalstev had another look at the basket, but his attempt fell short and Slovenia ran out the clock for a 64-65 win.

Despite the win, Slovenia will play for positions 8-16, a far cry from their performance in 2004 when they won the gold.

Russia, meanwhile, will take on Israel in the first of their quarter-final round match-ups on Tuesday.

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