Vitaly Fridzon sparked Russia to a win in their first quarter-final round encounter of the ACI Trading Ltd U20 European Championship Men in Chekov on Tuesday.
Russia faced an uphill struggle after a poor opening 30 minutes saw them trail by as many as 21 points. But Fridzon stepped up for his side in the final period, scoring 11 of his game high 18 points to lead Russia to a 72-76 win.
While it took Russia at least 30 minutes to find their rhythm, Italy were hot from the opening tip. They made their first four shots of the game (all three-pointers) to jump out to a 12-3 advantage early on.
The first half was all Italy, led by scoring sensation Marco Belinelli.
The Climamio Bologna star had 17 first half points and Italy took a comfortable 44-30 lead into halftime.
The third quarter took a similar pattern to the first as Russia failed to impress. A pair of Belinelli free throws midway through the 3rd quarter gave Italy a 58-37 lead and Russia's chances of victory were looking bleak.
But, just as the Russians looked down and out, they slowly began to work their way back into contention.
They closed the quarter with a 17-6 run and a Nikita Shabalkin tip-in at the buzzer cut Italy's lead to 10 points, 64-54.
The opening seconds of the fourth quarter were a signal of events to come. Italy missed a three-pointer (they shot 0/5 from long range in the period) and Fridzon assisted on an Anton Ponkrashov three-pointer.
Ponkrashov followed that with another three-pointer inside the last 5 minutes to bring Russia to within 2 points, 67-65.
It was at that point that Fridzon took over.
He hit a three-pointer to give Russia their first lead of the game and followed that up with a lay-up to make the score 67-70.
Italy answered with a three of their own to tie the game and Russia immediately handed the ball to Fridzon.
He replied emphatically going one-on-one and nailing a tough three-pointer to give his side the lead once again, 70-73.
Italy had just under 90 seconds to reply, but Luca Lechataler's jump shot was blocked by Dmitri Sokolov and Fridzon then found Sokolov under the basket for a lay-up, 70-75.
Italy managed one more basket throught a Lechtaler dunk, but Fridzon hit his 11th point of the quarter from the free throw line to cap a remarkable Russian comeback.