by Paul Nilsen
France crashed to their first loss of the tournament in spectacular fashion as Russia claimed top spot in Group F with a stunning defensive effort in their 57-41 victory.
The result left Russia Coach Anna Arkhipova Von Kalmanovich delighted with the effort of her team as they bounced back from their disappointing and shock loss to Poland.
"I told my players that all teams can have one bad performance in a tournament and I hope that the game with Poland was going to be the one."
|Ksenia Tikhonenko coralled 11 rbs and went for 18 points in Russia's routing of France|
"We were not worried about whether we finished first or second in the group, this was only a game for my girls to prove that we do not normally play the way we did against the Poland team."
"I think today we were much better and I want to thank my girls because France are a good team."
"We were stronger today but we do not look beyond the next game because this is wrong."
"I can not start to think about winning medals, only the next game."
Both teams entered the game jostling for position in Group F with the common link between each side was a game based around the central pillar of team defence and not surprisingly space and time was very much at a premium in a frantic opening.
Russia struggled to get anything going at all in the opening six minutes of the game and trailed 11-4 with Christelle Diallo wreaking havoc after grabbing 9 quick points inside.
The Russian team then sparked into life with an 11-0 run either side of the first quarter break to take the lead. A triple by Ekaterina Fedorenkova was complimented by some inside scores by the likes of Tikhonenko and Galina Kiseleva.
After their lengthy dry spell, Jodie Cornelie finally broke the bad run by getting to the hoop but the respite was only temporary. Russia continued to play a controlled game with plenty of players all making some shots or lay-ups.
Suddenly France were being made to look very ordinary and no longer the talk of the tournament. Russia continued to use their depth and better composure on offence to open up a double digit advantage at 23-13.
France only managed one further basket in the entire period through Cornelie again as Russia completed a 16-4 quarter to walk off court completely in control at 27-15 and having turned the game on its head.
That hard work of the Russian players were causing too many French turnovers and while both teams were simply awful from the perimeter making just one triple between them, it was Russia proving to have the greater finishing ability both on lay-ups and jump shots.
France could make absolutely no impression on the game whatsoever in the penultimate period. They tried to lift their defence but just couldn't get their offence together without the transition buckets and Russia played superbly well with their handling of the ball of paramount importance.
The final ten minutes started with Russia 37-25 in front and had they made some shots from outside, France would have already been out of the game for sure. Instead they used the fact that they had not yet been blow out to launch a comeback.
They scored the first seven points of the period, helped by Caroline Plust making a first triple of the game for the French. With just six minutes to play it was suddenly a one shot game again at 39-36 and France could sense the completion of another comeback.
Just when Russia looked like they could crack, Fedorenkova delivered a real killer triple and then made two free throws and within seconds France were down by ten again and heading for a first loss.
As Tikohonenko completed her double-double, Russia turned a mini-burst of scoring into a game breaking 16-0 run.
It not only ended the hopes of France but made amends for the shock loss to Poland and also set up a mouth watering clash with hosts Italy. France meanwhile will have to prove this was merely a blip as they look to bounce back in the quarter finals against Turkey.