By Jeff Taylor
Russia have been far from their best at this EuroBasket and Serbia made them pay the price for that on Saturday by jumping out to a big lead and holding on for a narrow triumph.
Igor Grudin’s team will now try to get on track in Group F against Belarus, whose own two-game winning streak came to an end against France in Ortono.
Russia’s guards did not excel against Serbia, especially defensively with Milica Dabovic burying three-pointers and scoring on drives to the basket on her way to a game-high 28 points.
|Sviatlana Volnaya will need to be on her game for Belarus on Monday.|
Oxana Rakhmatulina fouled out of the game with just five points, one assist, four rebounds, one turnover and no steals.
What complicates Russia’s situation now is the fitness of Tatiana Shchegoleva, the 1.92m power forward/center who makes a living on those slashing moves to the basket.
Shchegoleva injured her leg in the first quarter against Serbia and did not return until the fourth quarter with Russia looking for a spark.
Grudin would prefer not to play her against Belarus unless she feels good enough.
Last Result: Russia lost 67-65 to Serbia and Belarus fell to France, 72-60.
Key Match-up: Belarus’ Yelena Leuchanka v Russia’s Maria Stepanova. Leuchanka scored a team-high 14 points and grabbed 11 rebounds against the Serbians and coach Anatoli Buyalski could sure use a big game from her to prevent Stepanova from dominating the low post.
Key Stat: Anastasiya Verameyenka is shooting 87.5 % from the floor for Belarus. Maybe Buyalski would like his 1.92m center to look for her shot even more.
X-Factor: Svetlana Volnaya hasn’t been at her best in this EuroBasket for Belarus but the EuroLeague Women All-Star at USK Prague has the kind of game that can cause problems for Russia on both ends of the floor. She is athletic and normally a good shooter who can also put the ball on the floor and drive to the basket.
Speaking Out: “Maybe they’re (Russia) angry and will be aggressive against us, but we’re as hungry as they are and we’ll try and do our best” – Belarus guard Natalia Marchanka