By Jeff Taylor
Normal service resumed at the EuroBasket Women on Monday as Russia thrashed Belarus 87-73 in qualifying round Group F.
Knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by Serbia two days ago after a lacklustre effort, Igor Grudin’s team broke open a close game midway through the second quarter against Belarus and led by as many as 30 points before easing to victory in the fourth quarter.
“Today, we had a very aggressive defense, everyone got out on the fast break,” said Russia’s Natalia Vodopyanova.
|Korstin was a spark plug for Russia with a game-high 21 points.|
“We had a meeting before the game and we wanted to show good basketball.”
Ilona Korstin led the points parade with a game-high 21 on eight of 11 shooting for the Russians, who dominated the boards by grabbing 50 rebounds – 18 on the offensive glass – to just 25 overall for Belarus.
When asked which players had spoken up in the team meeting before tip-off, Korstin said she, Oxana Rakhmatulina and Maria Stepanova tried to fire up the troops.
“We said we can’t lose to this team,” Korstin said. “We lost to Serbia, so we were very upset. Tonight, we wanted to show our fans we can win and we have a great team.”
Belarus entered the game after falling to France in their first qualifying round clash, and they more than held their own against the Russians, trailing 31-30 with 5:28 remaining in the first half after a three-pointer from Katsiaryna Snytsina.
But Korstin and Co outscored them 10-1 to close the first half and then opened the third quarter on a 10-2 run.
After Irina Osipova and Anastasiya Veremeenko traded baskets to start the second half, the wheels came off for Anatoli Buyalski’s team.
Korstin scored on an alley-oop pass from Rakhmatulina and then Korstin returned the favour, spotting an open Rakhmatulina who buried a jump shot to make it 47-33.
Rakhmatulina was outstanding in this stretch.
She then handed the ball off to Olga Arteshina and collected her fourth assist as the sweet-shooting Arteshina drilled a jumper.
Rakhmatulina then stole the ball from Nataliya Trafimava and drove in for a lay-up and 51-33 lead.
The lead grew to 73-43 on a shot from the arc from little-used Russian reserve forward Irina Sokolovskaya.
Russia did take their foot off the pedal and allowed Belarus to claw their deficit back to 85-73 before settling for a 14-point triumph.