Third Quarter Burst Carries Spain
Spain held Greece scoreless for the first seven minutes of the second half to break open a close contest and rolled to a 67-48 Qualifying Round triumph.
Silver-medal winners two years ago in Italy, the Spanish went undefeated in Group A in Liepaja and on Thursday provided further evidence they will be in the reckoning for honors in Riga.
Trailing 35-34 with 1:15 to go in the first half, Spain co-captain Elisa Aguilar hit a jump shot to spark a 21-0 run that lasted deep into the third quarter and Greece never recovered.
Playing without Amaya Valdemoro, the EuroBasket Women 2007 MVP, Spain struggled in the early exchanges with Greece reeling off 10 straight points to claim a 12-4 lead.
Spain still trailed 25-18 with 6:44 to go in the second quarter when their defense started to cause problems for their opponents.
Lolita Limoura turned the ball over under pressure and Anna Montanana punished them with a fast-break lay-up to spark a 12-0 Spanish run.
Aguilar and Palau followed with three-pointers and Montanana added four free straight free throws for a 30-25 Spain lead.
The brilliant Evina Maltsi capped a 10-4 spurt with a lay-up, taking her personal haul to 17 points in the first half, to put Greece in front for the last time in the game at 35-34.
That's when Aguilar started the 21-0 scoring rampage that propelled the Spanish to their fourth straight win at the EuroBasket Women.
When it was over, the strain Greece's players were under showed in the turnover column on the stat sheet.
They had turned the ball over 25 times.
"I thought Greece did a great scouting job in the opening half," Spain coach Evaristo Perez said.
"We adjusted our defense at the break and we grew as a team.
"I thought we played brilliantly in the third quarter. That is the level that we can play at."
Excellent defense has been the staple of the Spanish teams that have reached the podium at every EuroBasket Women since 2001.
They have collected three bronze medals and one silver (2007) in that time.
Defense certainly disrupted the Greeks in the third quarter when they failed to score for such a long stretch.
"A team needs great defense to achieve its aims and we gave Greece not much space," Perez said.
"We suffocated them. We also found balance on both defense and offense."
For Greece, a EuroBasket Women that promised so much again delivered little.
After opening the tournament with a big triumph over Hungary, Greece lost to Poland in the waning seconds and then fell to hosts Latvia in overtime.
"I think we played basketball for one half," Greece coach Kostas Missas said.
"The second half we lost concentration and Spain played very well in the second half.
"They started pressure from defense and 25 turnovers is a big number. My team was tired but mostly psychologically."
Maltsi finished with 26 points and was the only Greece player to hit double digits in scoring.
Montanana once again led the way for Spain with 19 points.