Russia 94 Slovak Republic 70
In the first game in Vannes Russia got off to a strong start by steam-rollering the Slovak Republic in the first half then holding on for the win. The Russians lead 15-3 after 5 minutes and stretched that to a 20-point 29-9 margin after 8 minutes had passed. At the end of the 1st quarter the score stood at 34-13.
At the beginning of the 2nd Russia was still dominating and the Slovaks were simply unable to score. Russia had fast breaks available but started looking to slow down and look inside. Marina Kuzina was very strong in the paint at both ends and the Slovak Rep. had no answers. With 7 mins on clock the score stood at 43-15 and the Russians were still driving inside, dishing off for the outside shot, or going strong to the hoop.
Coach Galina Voronina was already able to run the bench players by the end of the first half so that after 20 minutes only 3 of the Russian team hadn’t put points on the scoresheet.
The Slovaks tried to attack at the beginning of the 2nd half, with point guard Kubatova leading the way by hitting 2 consecutive 3-pointers, backed up by forward Michaela Ivanova. The Russians had difficulty reacting to this new-found aggressivity and by the middle of the 4th quarter the Slovak Rep. had reduced the gap to 12.
The Russians woke up again however and, with a great effort from Liudmila Sapova, tightened the vice once again and pulled away for the 94-70 win.
Italy 93 Finland 101 (OT)
In game 2, Finland came back from a 19 point deficit in the 4th quarter to take the match into overtime before unexpectedly seeing off Italy.
Finland started the game well and led after 10 minutes, 17-26. Nina Laaksonen dominated inside, scoring 11 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in only 8 minutes on the court. Italy got over the initial surprise and in the 2nd quarter took the game under control, with point guard Valeria Zanoli keeping the tempo very upbeat and 1,97m centre Eva Giauro showing who was boss in the paint, scoring 6/7 in the 10 minutes. The 1st half ended with Italy up by 6, 47-41, with little doubt as to which side was the faster and stronger.
The 3rd period continued with Finland struggling and Italy stretched its lead to 21 points (66:45) after 25 minutes. Zanoli was excellent for the Italians and really kept the game under her control. At the end of the quarter the Finns had reduced the gap marginally to 70:53.
Italy kept hold of its lead at the beginning of the 4th, however, suddenly the Finnish side threw in a tough press which their opponents had terrible trouble breaking. Turnover followed turnover for the Italians as Zanolin received very little back up from her teammates. Finland had a 14-4 run and with 5 minutes to play it was a 9-point game.The Finns kept pushing, led by Dionne Pounds inside and out and Laura Sario and Jonna Launiainen at forward. With 2 minutes left on the clock Finland had come back to 78-77. ´
In the dying seconds Giauro missed 2 free throws for Italy, but Zanoli put in 2 on a drive. Sario answered for Finland and the Italians ran out of time to get a last shot away.´
In overtime Italy looked liked they had run out of ideas and from the very first it was clear who was going to win. Finland were strong from behind the arc and also in the paint. Dionne Pounds had 20 points for Finland, including 4 threes, Laaksonen had 13 points and 11 rebounds and Sario 21 points. For Italy, -both Zanoli and Cinzia Arioli had 21 points.
Ukraine 69 France 79
A great 3rd quarter performance from the host team decided the 3rd game in Vannes, and was enough to guarantee the win despite a difficult and often stagnant 1st half and finish.
France came out strong, looking to stamp some authority on the competition from the first. Centre Elodie Godin has already played with the senior national team (at the European Championship 2003 in Greece) and her experience is evident while playing amongst her peers. She looked dominant from the first and scored 10 points in the first half, along with 3 rebounds and 3 assists. Her team-mates had more trouble scoring and after the initial good start the French let the Ukrainain team back into the game. Play became very scrappy at the end of the 1st quarter and France were lucky to finish up by 5, 18-23.
Again France started the 2nd period well, Julie Barennes scoring 7 points in a row, but again they then got stuck and Ukraine came back. France remained scoreless for 5 minutes by which time Ukraine had rediced the gap to 1 point, 29-30. France kept trying to pull away, but to no avail and the half finished even at 36-36.
French coach Francis Denis certainly got his players fired up during half-time because after the break France came out and immediately went on a 14-2 run which effectively decided the game. Ukraine had absolutely no comeback against the tough defence and resulting fast-breaks and could only score 7 points in the entire period.
In the 4th Ukraine tried their very best to pull back, Olexandra Gorbunova leading the attack, but the margin was simply too great and the French were able to keep enough composure to hold on to the victory. Gorbunova topped all scorers on Day 1 with 31 points. For France Elodie Godin led the scoring with 16 points and Penda Sy helped inside by grabbing 10 boards.
Belgium 74 Spain 59
The first game in Group B in Quimper threw up the first surprise of the competition as Belgium not only beat Spain, but did so with a respectable margin. The Belgian team have brought a lot of supporters with them to Britanny and and their cheers coupled with noisy support from the bench gave the players on court the extra motivation necessary.
The first half was very balanced – Spain opened the scoring but Belgium was quick to follow suit. Spain’s Paula Palomares was hot from behind the arc but it wasn’t enough to counter the Belgian inside-outside duo of Eveline Callens and Katrien Vercauteren and Belgium finished the first half up 6 36-30.
Belgium continued to pull away in the second half, Callens dominating the paint (she finished with a double double: 14 points and 12 rebounds) to which Spain really had no answers. Christina García made a big effort to breing her team back into the game, including an enormous rebound followed by a coast-to-coast, but it wasn’t enough.
n the 4th quarter the Spaniards looked tired and missed a lot from outside and Belgium kept the victory safe. García and Palomares topped the scoring for Spain (15 and 16 points respectively) and Katrien Vercauteren added 16 points, including 4/6 3-pointers, to the Belgian stats.
Czech Republic 88 Croatia 64
The Czech Republic were very wary coming into this game, keeping in mind that in the Qualifying Round they had only won against Croatia by a very narrow 3 point margin. That wasn’t the case today as the Czech players blew away the Croatian team, eventually winning by 24.
The Czechs made their mark from the very start, playing excellent defence and showing themselves to be the better team on the court. The guards shot well from outside and forward Jitka Musilová was a leading light, scoring 20 points (5/8 2 points and 2/3 from behind the arc). She was further backed up by centre Lenka Vetrovková who had 21 points.
The Croatians looked to be completely overrun in the first half and after 20 minutes the score stood at 49-27.
In the 3rd and 4th periods little changed except that the Czech team eased off a little, allowing the Croatians to keep the margin under 30. Iva Sliskovic topped for Croatia with 18 points and 8 rebounds.
Hungary 65 Poland 56
In the third and last game in Quimper Hungary held off a second half Polish attack to take the 2 points for a win. Both teams opened with a 3-pointer but then neither could score for another 3 minutes. Hungary eventually grasped the initiative and hit another 3. With 7 minutes played the score stood even at 12:12 however Hungary then went on a run, pouring in 2 3-pointers and running the fast break to finish the quarter 20:12.
In the second period both teams were very balanced and both had trouble scoring. At half-time the (low) score: 31-22.
Poland woke up a little in the second half and started to threaten the Hungarian lead. With a little more time they may even have made it a tight finish. VBW Clima Gdynia point guard Paulina Pawlak kept pushing her teammates, scoring 8 points and dishing 5 assists, while Izabela Piekarska looked strong inside. Hungary held on, however, and led by MiZo-Pécsi centre Anna Vajda, kept the Poles at bay. Vajda ended the game with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks while Piekarska finished with 20 points and likewise 7 rebounds.