Slovak Republic 80 Russia 72

19 September 2003

Zuzana Zirkova had 21 points, 4 assists and 6 steals
Slovakia slew giants Russia 80-72 on the opening night of the women's European Championships
in Group B.

Peter Kovacik's surprise package held Russia to just two points during the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter and fought back to create the shock of the tournament on day one.

Russia, runners-up to France two years ago at the Europeans and again last summer at the World Championships to the United States, started this year's event in Greece as most of the experts' picks but they have fallen sensationally to a side which has struggled for most of the summer.

Having stumbled and bumbled their way through their preparation games - Slovakia suffered the indignity of losing to their B team in the Grand Prix Slovakia tournament - Slovakia now seem to have steadied a sinking ship.

What is amazing is that the Russians appeared to be in control, going on an 11-0 run at the end of the third quarter as they built a 67-57 advantage.

But Slovakia's defensive pressure, Russian mistakes and Zuzana Zirkova's much-needed offence brought the Slovaks back.

By the end of the game, Slovakia had limited Russia to just five fourth-quarter points and scored 23 of their own to win by eight points.

Guard Zirkova, who expressed frustration at the criticism coming Slovakia's way because of their poor results this summer, gave the best possible answer with a game-high 21 points and six steals, while also dishing out four assists and grabbing five rebounds - four of them on the offensive glass.

The defensive intensity from the Slovaks told on the Russians, who turned the ball over 27 times in the game.


26.09.2003 - From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Patras
24.09.2003 - Jeff Taylor PA Sport

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