Andrei Kirilenko and his Russian teammates shook off a poor shooting night to beat Ukraine 86-74 on Friday to head Group A at the 2005 EuroBasket.
The Russians made just 5 of their first 23 shots and finished the game shooting only 41 per cent. But the versatile Utah Jazz star Kirilenko led the way with 22 points 14 rebounds, five blocked shots, three steals and two assists - though he too hit just 7/20 from the field and 6/11 free throws.
J.R. Holden chipped in 16 points and Nikita Morgunov added 14 points off the bench for Sergey Babkov's team at the Millenium Centar.
|Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)|
"This was the first game. I think we were really nervous and you saw that," Kirilenko said.
Sergey Monya, who scored eight points off the bench, reiterated Kirilenko's view: "We didn't show our full power. But it was important that we won."
Serhiy Lishchuk led Ukraine with 18 points. But most of his production came after Los Angeles Lakers forward Stanislav Medvedenko had fouled out midway through the third quarter with 14 points in 21 minutes. Andrii Lebediev tallied 13.
"We have a lot of young, very talented players. But it was my fault,"
Medvedenko said. "I committed the five fouls."
Russia started the game icy - 5/23 from the field midway through the second quarter - and warmed just slightly. Because of the poor shooting - just 6/21 from behind the three-point stripe, Babkov's team was never able to pull away from the Ukrainians.
Ukraine's young inexperienced squad held strong against the NBA stars from Russia. Down 75-69 with 2:30 left in the game, Lebediev drove to the basket, was fouled and made the basket plus free throw to cut the lead to three.
Morgunov tipped in Holden's missed three only to have Volodymyr Gurtovyy pull it back to three for Gennadi Zaschuk's squad. Victor Khryapa hit a jumper and Petr Samoylenko hit two free throws to push the lead back up to seven.
Russia lead Group A on point differential ahead of Italy, who beat Germany earlier Friday. Italy and Russia face off on Saturday while Germany take on Ukraine in the night game.