Shorthanded Russia Blow Chance To Top Turkey

27 July 2009

Turkey needed overtime to outlast a shorthanded Russian team, 72-70, in Group E of the Qualifying Round at the U18 European Championship Men 2009 in Metz, France.

Despite being without Pavel Antipov (virus) and Gleb Potnikov (knee injury), Russia pushed the undefeated Turks to the very end.

Afterwards, the result left Can Mutaf with just one reaction: a huge sigh of relief.

"This was a tough game. We had a good lead in the final minutes but we had problems getting up the court because of their pressure defense so we took bad shots and turned the ball over," he said.

Turkey led 55-43 at the start the fourth quarter but were outscored 19-7 in the final frame as they failed to get a single point in the last 3:35 of regulation.

Russia gradually closed the gap thanks to Nikita Balashov and Dmitry Kulagin, the latter tying the game with 40 seconds left when he made one of two free-throws.

However, Mikhail Solovyev's side will rue their inability to make the most of their trips to the foul line, where they were a mediocre eight for 18.

The Turks went back in front early in the overtime, Kanter hitting three of four free-throws for a 65-62 edge.

Bendzhamin Pavel Dudu closed the gap to one, 65-64, on a driving lay-up but again Kanter hit a pair from the charity stripe and Mutaf made a tough shot to push the advantage to 69-64.

Russia rallied once again as Alexander Burtsev scored on a putback and his driving two-handed dunk over two Turkish defenders the next time down the court tied the game at 69 with 1:20 to go.

The Russians could have gone ahead but Mikhail Nabotov missed an open lay-up. Mutaf hit two free-throws and Kulagin again could only make good on one of two of his attempts from the foul line for a 71-70 score with 11.1 seconds left.

Furkan Aldemir was fouled and hit the second of two free-throws as Turkey just about held on.

Turkey had jumped to an early 14-5 lead behind Kanter's strong play, but Russia's big men showed they were no pushovers as they got back at him to make it a close game.

Ivan Lazarev - who is an injury concern after turning his ankle in the fourt quarter- hit a tough turnaround shot before Balashov tipped in a missed shot and then dunked on Kanter off a pick and roll play to give his team their first lead, 18-17.

Both teams cooled off offensively in the second quarter and it was now all about the intangibles - rebounding, staying out of the penalty and taking care of the ball - which Turkey did a better of as they head into half-time with a 35-29 lead.

Mustafa Derin did not start Mutaf and backcourt partner Firat Toz in the third quarter and took Mutaf out after just 2:20 played in the second half. The moves though didn't seem to hinder the team's progress as they stretched their advantage to 44-36.

Mutaf and Kanter checked back in late in the period to push the lead into double-digits before their collapse in the fourth quarter.

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