By David Hein
Turning Point: With the game tied at 48-48, Sergey Monya nailed the first of three three-pointers to give Russia a 57-48 lead, which would grow to 10 points before Russia pulled within two late.
Hero: Monya. His big shots gave Russia just enough push to grab a lead and then he made a free throw with 20 seconds left to make it so that Greece needed a trey to tie, which they could not hit.
Stats: 48 and 42-42. Russia shot 48 percent from long range while grabbing 42 rebounds to Greece's 42 rebounds.
Kelly McCarty and Sergey Monya combined for 33 points as reigning champions Russia took a giant step towards the EuroBasket 2009 quarter-finals by holding off Greece 68-65 in the Qualifying Round Group E.
Monya nailed three big three-pointers and 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter and it proved enough as David Blatt's Russians improved to 2-2 in the group while Greece dropped their first game of the tournament to fall to 3-1.
"I think that we controlled the game and we deserved to win the game tonight. There is really nobody younger and more inexperienced than us. And to beat Croatia and Greece in three days and the way we did is admirable," said Blatt, whose team shot 10 of 21 (48 percent) from long range.
Blatt also said his team likely took advantage of having a bigger sense of urgency than Greece, who had already gained a spot in the quarters before the game.
"We had more to gain by this game than Greece and that may have had a difference in this game in the first half. Players are human beings. And I think Greece probably let down a little. And we jumped on it hard."
McCarty scored a game-high 17 points while also grabbing nine rebounds and not committing a turnover in 38 minutes of action. Timofey Mozgov added 10 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
"Defense, defense, defense. We played great today in that sense. Greece is the best offensive team here and we held them down to their tournament low and it says a lot about our game tonight," said McCarty.
Greece were led by 13 points from Sofoklis Schortsanitis while Vasileios Spanoulis and Ioannis Bourousis both had 12 points and Antonios Fotsis chipped in 10 points in a losing effort.
"They took many offensive rebounds (15 for Russia) and that made it tougher for us. The more they took the more nervous we got and we didn't always react as we should have," said Nikos Zisis, who was held to three points.
"Mozgov is a big force in the paint and he changed a lot of shots we took around the rim and that made a big difference"
Blatt's men started very strong on defense, holding Greece to just 3 of 14 shooting in the first nine minutes of the game as Russia began building a lead thanks to two three-pointers by Vitalii Fridzon.
The Russian cushion grew to 11 points on Andrey Vorontsevich's three-pointer to make it 21-10.
Spanoulis scored his first points to make it 21-12 after one period.
Greece scored the first two baskets of the second quarter and tried chipping away at the Russian lead - though the gap was still 10 points after Sergey Bkyov's triple with four minutes left in the half.
Jonas Kazlauskas's Greeks twice pulled within four points but Russia led 39-32 at the break.
The Russians missed their first 10 shots of the second half and watched Greece pull ahead 40-39 with an 8-0 run over the first seven minutes of the third quarter.
McCarty however stopped the drought with a jumper and then Aleksey Zozulin and McCarty knocked down back-to-back triples to keep Russia ahead 48-47 after three quarters.
Monya came up with three big three-pointers in the early stages of the final period to push Russia ahead 57-48. And Blatt watched his men take a 10-point lead at 63-53 with less than four minutes to play despite an unsportsmanlike foul against Anton Ponkrashov.
Greece refused to die and Fotsis's triple cut the margin to 63-61 before McCarty hit two foul shots. Ponkrashov added two more free throws before Georgios Printezis nailed a three-ball to make it 67-65 with 22 seconds left.
Monya answered with a foul shot two seconds later before Printezis missed a three in the waning seconds which would have knotted the game.