By David Hein
Russia confirmed again their favourite status at the 2007 EuroBasket Women with a convincing 64-49 victory over Spain to clinch first place in Group F.
Maria Stepanova collected 19 points, 12 rebounds and three assists and Irina Osipova added 13, eight and two for the Russians.
The 2005 EuroBasket Women and 2006 World Championship Women silver-medallists will now
meet 1997 title-holders Lithuania in the quarter-finals on Friday.
|Abrosimova had 10 points and five assists for Russia.|
“Spain put up a big fight for three quarters. It wasn't easy for us,” said Russian guard Ilona Korstin, who finished with eight points and six rebounds.
“In the fourth quarter we finally pulled together and things started to work for us. This is the way we wanted to play, and this is the reason we won.”
Spain, who were led by 14 points from Amaya Valdemoro, took second in Group F and will next face Belgium in Friday's other quarter-final.
“Every one of us has to learn something from this. Every game from now on is what really matters.We can't afford to lose (against Belgium),” said Anna Montanana, who collected six points and eight rebounds in the loss.
“The Russian team has been very good today. My only hope is that we meet them in the final,” added Spanish boss Evaristo Perez.
In a showdown many believe could be a preview of the October 7 final in Chieti, neither team started strong with plenty at stake.
Stepanova and Olga Arteshina were able to knock down three-pointers as Russia jumped ahead 11-5 after seven minutes.
Perez took two timeouts and finally got his women somewhat in sync and a long bomb from Valdemoro ended a four-minute scoring drought for Spain, who would eventually pull to within 16-13 after one period.
The struggles continued for both teams in the second quarter as neither side could find any rhythm.
Spain made just 4-of-17 shots in the period while Russia were even worse with just 2-of-13 shooting.
Still Igor Grudin's women led 24-22 at the break.
Russia decided to utilise their blonde lowpost giants in the third quarter, dumping the ball into the paint and watching Stepanova and Osipova combine for 17 points in the period.
Spain used the long ball to stay close with Valdemoro hitting two three-pointers and Montanana knocking down one as well.
Back-to-back Stepanova baskets opened a six-point gap 45-39, which Spain trimmed back down to 45-42 going into the fourth.
In the final period, it was Svetlana Abrosimova and Korstin who took over things offensively, scoring Russia's first nine points and Arteshina's driving lay-up made it 56-45 with six minutes left.
The Russians refused to let up defensively, holding Spain to just two free throws and a jumper over the final 4:30 in finishing the game in a blow-out.
The Russians admitted they feel confident about their game getting better along the way.
"I think the first half we struggled with our execution and we rushed our shots.But we are getting better and this win will give us confidence for the final round,” said Abrosimova.