|Louice Halvarsson and Sweden made sure their fans will keep partying for at least two more nights|
By Paul Nilsen
Turning Point: Ashley Key exploded at the start of the fourth quarter just when Sweden were beginning to lose their edge and Montenegro were thinking about making their move. Her energy got her an ‘And-1' play; a huge fall-back three-pointer from the wing; and a fast break score.
Stats Don't Lie: The difference in three-point shooting could barely have been more stark with Montenegro a woeful 3-of-22 and Sweden 6-of-12. The 32 bench points for the Swedes against just 11 for the losing team, was another stat which stood out.
Game Heroes: Whilst Frida Eldebrink and Ashley Key combined for 38 points, Anna Barthold did the bulk of the dirty work in terms of rebounds and most importantly got right under the skin of Jelena Dubljevic - the key danger for Montenegro. Barthold pushed the limits in doing so, but will have been satisfied with a job well done as Dubljevic fouled out of the game in frustration with two offensive fouls.
A re-energised Sweden re-discovered their aggressive streak to overcome Montenegro 69-58 in a bruising second round encounter at EuroBasket Women 2013 in Lille.
After having a couple of days to recuperate from their mauling by Spain, head coach Lars Johansson had his players back on track right from the outset and looking hungry for the victory.
Barthold epitomised the feisty Swedish approach as she hustled for precious rebounds and spent most of the game in the personal space of Dubljevic. It worked a treat and Johansson paid tribute to the work of his forward afterwards.
He said, "Anna had a great game on defence and rebounding. I am not surprised, I have seen her for so many years doing this and I am very happy about it."
As for Dubljevic, she was still seething with the defeat at the media conference afterwards and confessed, "I hate to lose and I am in a horrible mood now."
Being sat with Barthold probably didn't help, but Montenegro were always playing catch up and by shooting such a poor percentage from long-range, they didn't do themselves any favours.
Yet they had been given a huge lift midway through the third period, when they made successive triples and narrowed to within four points.
Their defence had also held Sweden to just ten points in the period, but it proved to be a false dawn as Key got Sweden rolling again and back on the road to success.
Sweden play Turkey in their next game and Montenegro face Spain.
Montenegro Player Jelena Dubljevic:
"Congratulations to Sweden, they played a better game, they started better, they played smarter than us. We knew it would be a hard game and we didn't start as we needed, we let them play their game with a lot of easy shots in the first half. They got a lot of confidence. We have two more games, it is not easy to lose, I hate it, but we have to enjoy the next games and play our game. We only have few days to find our identity, in order to be able to compete with the other teams. Right now, we are only competing against ourselves."
Sweden Player Anna Barthold:
"I think they played a pretty good game but we had a game plan today and we executed it very well. As Jelena said, we played a very smart game. I think it was a close game, pretty physical and I am very happy with the first win in this Second Round."
Montenegro Head Coach Miodrag Baletic:
"We have a very short bench and it is very difficult to play a game like this with only four experienced players. I think the players were overexcited about playing this game. It's impossible to win with the three-point shooting percentage we had today, and I want to congratulate Sweden."
Sweden Head Coach Lars Johansson:
"We knew Montenegro have a very good team, it would be impossible to stop a player like Jelena Dubljevic. We had to use a lot of players in order to have the game in our hands, and that was the key of the game. We have a very good roster and we need all of them if we want to get the tempo and be aggressive as we are. I also want to congratulate Anna Barthold for her game on defence and rebounding."