By Jeff Taylor
France played extremely well on defense and scored just enough points to beat Greece 58-50 in their Group C opener at the EuroBasket Women in Chieti.
Looking to bring some joy to the country after the men's disappointing eighth place finish at their EuroBasket in Spain, the French got 14 points from Sandrine Gruda.
Gruda scored five of those points in 69-second stretch near the end that killed off the
Greeks, who had cut a 13-point deficit to 50-45 with 2:45 remaining after a pair of Evanthia Maltsi free throws.
|Maltsi was a factor for Greece with 14 points and four rebounds.|
Gruda went to the other end and buried a 15-foot jump shot.
After feeding Sandra Dijon for another jump shot, Gruda went up strong with 1:20 remaining, scored and was fouled on the play.
She made the free throw to complete the three-point play and stretch the lead to 57-47.
Greece got no closer than seven points the rest of the way.
"It was very difficult. Greece have a very strong team, and they are very organized as well," said France coach Jacques Commeres.
"Our defense is very good, but that would be better if if our offense (was better)," said French veteran Edwige Lawson-Wade.
"We have to improve on our offense and make the easy shots."
The game was tight for most of the first half but a Greek drought that lasted seven minutes allowed France to build a comfortable 27-19 half-time lead.
France's biggest advantage was 36-23 midway through the third quarter, but Greece's tenacious defense and Les Bleues' failure to make a lot of easy shots prevented them from pulling away.
Greece closed the gap late but could get no closer.
Greece coach Konstantinos Missas said: "We tried to control the offensive rebounding of France and we didn't do a bad job.
"Because of the pressure of France, we turned the ball over 24 times. France scored 10 easy points on the fast break.
"Tomorrow is our tournament. We have to be prepared for a great game against Italy."