EuroBasket Women 2011
|Spain need to beat Latvia and the best way to go about it is to stop Gunta Basko. Is Laia Palau the player to do that?|
Spain are in unchartered waters heading into their Round 2 game with Latvia.
They have just two wins in their opening four games of a EuroBasket Women.
At every EuroBasket Women from 2001 to 2009, when Spain finished with bronze or silver (2007), La Roja enjoyed fast starts.
Two years ago in Riga, Spain didn't lose a game until their Semi-Final clash with Russia.
Even last year at the FIBA World Championship for Women in the Czech Republic, Spain won five in a row before losing to the Russians in a game that didn't have serious consequences.
Now, however, Spain find themselves fourth in Group F with their progression to the Quarter-Final Round anything but certain.
Since they finished second with a 2-1 record in Group C, Spain carried a victory into Group F.
Following their heavy defeat to France on Wednesday, they are 1-2 in their Round 2 pool and in fourth place above only Poland and Croatia (both 0-3).
A defeat to Latvia would throw up the very real possibility of Spain needing to win a tie-breaker to advance.
First things, first.
Spain have to get over a nightmarish fourth quarter against France when they were outscored 33-7.
"We take some positives from our defeat to France and also some negatives," Spain coach Jose Ignacio Hernandez said.
"The team showed an improvement and what my players have to do is to forget the last quarter against France that was not good for us.
"My players know that the important game is that of the Quarter-Finals and in order to get there, we need to beat Croatia.
"We have come to this tournament to fight in the Quarters and considering the group results, we are closer to our aim."
Hernandez admits that Latvia have been very good in Katowice.
"Latvia is a very good team, especially at the defensive end, where they are doing a good job," he said.
"Tactically they have prepared well and we have to play this game with a lot of focus."
The Latvians are home and dry.
A side that had to go through qualifying has so far won three of four games and is joint top in Group F with a spot in the Quarter-Final Round secured.
The one quality that Latvia have shown in their victories over France, Croatia and on Wednesday against Poland has been their ability to remain positive.
They have come from behind in all three of their victories.
Head to Head: Spain beat Latvia 67-60 in front of 7,900 fans at the Arena Riga on June 15 during the EuroBasket Women 2009.
Last Time Out: Latvia trailed by eight points but beat Poland, 62-53. Spain led 48-44 late in the third quarter but lost to France 79-55.
Key Match-Up: Laia Palau v Gunta Basko. Palau is a quick, versatile defender with long arms and should be called upon to guard Latvia's leading scorer against Poland with 19 points, Gunta Basko.
Key Stat: Latvia have averaged 19 turnovers per game at the EuroBasket Women compared to Spain's 13.5.
Sounding Off: "The games we win, we do so starting on defense. What I say to my players is that our defense has to be action not reaction," says Latvia coach George Dikeoulakos