France won a hard-fought battle over rival Russia in convincing style 70-40 to go 2-0 in Group D.
Alain Jardel's team made a statement today taking some sweet revenge for last year's defeat to Russia in the gold medal game in the process, even though the tournament is long and these two candidates for the title may very well face each other again later down the line.
The battle was largely won in the second quarter when France turned up their defensive intensity and outscored Russia 19-4 sending them into halftime with a 15-point lead (35-20).
"I am very happy for our team because we they only scored forty points on us," said coach Jardel.
That being said, the French coach also pointed to two other factors in the win.
"Defense is always important, but the key to this game was our rebounding the first half. We limited them to only four offensive boards and that was critical."
"We also shot well because Russia used a zone defense and we have very good outside shooters."
|Jurgita Kausaite's team scored an important win against Belarus|
France dominated on both ends of the court, stifling the Russian offense and scoring the ball consistently and also in bunches when need be.
One of those bunches came precisely at the end of the second quarter.
Both teams traded baskets until France's Marielle Amant (9 points) scored five points in under a minute to put France up 23-16.
Nadezda Grishaeva hit a jumper at the 6:46 mark to pull Russia back to within six (26-20), but her team would then go dry for the rest of the half.
France extended their lead on a three pointer by Melanie Plust (11 points) and a baseline jumper by Jessica Clemencon as the buzzer sounded sent their squad into the locker room up 15(35-20).
While Grishaeva (14 points, 10 boards) did what she could to keep her team in the game, the French attack was a collective effort.
Ten players got on the scorecard led by Aline Fischbach's 14 points.
France will play Sweden tomorrow with the goal of reaching the Qualifying Round with a perfect record.
Jardel would not say that this victory meant that France was now the favourite for the gold.
"No, Russia is a very good team, but I think that the second round will be difficult because I think Groups C and D are the toughest."
Russia will face 0-2 Belarus to see if they can get their offense back on track for the next round.
Sweden Squeeze By Belarus
Sweden claimed its first victory by hanging on to edge a never-say-die Belarus 72-70.
After Sweden's Beat Gulberg made only one of two free throws, Belarus had the ball and a chance to tie or even win with :05 on the clock. But a Sviatlana Valko pass slipped out of bounds and Sweden could finally celebrate.
Jurgita Kausaite's team was powered by a balanced attack with four scorers in double figures. Gulberg led Sweden with 16 points and six rebounds. Danielle Hamilton Carter added 15 points and five boards while Louice Halvarsson notched 13 points to go with six rebounds. Maryam Itekin did her part by scoring ten points and dishing out two assists.
Belarus relied on Tatsiana Dashkevich and Katsiaryna Kashlei for offense. Dashkevich scored 23 while her partner helped with 17 more.
Sweden got out to an early 7-2 lead, but Belarus responded and a Dashkevich jumper tied it at nine.
That dynamic, with Sweden pulling ahead and Belarus chasing would define the game until two free throws by Dashkevic gave Belarus the lead 40-39 with 8:48 to go in the third. From there on it was a back-and-forth game that featured 11 ties and 16 lead changes until Sweden finally came out on top at the final buzzer.