|03 July 2012|
OLYMPIC QUALIFYING TOURNAMENT
|Andrei Kirilenko led a balanced Russian team with 16 points and six rebounds.|
Russia and Greece blew away their opponents on the first day of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) but one of the darlings of EuroBasket 2011, the F.Y.R. of Macedonia, fell to Angola.
In the first game of OQT in Caracas, Venezuela, Russia rolled to a 91-56 victory over Korea in Group C.
Andrey Kirilenko had 14 of his game-high 16 points in the first half as Russia built a 45-26 lead.
Russia out-rebounded Korea 48-30 and looked unstoppable.
Captain Sergey Monya had 14 points and both Sasha Kaun and Tomofey Mozgov 12 in the rout.
Blatt also gave a debut to Russia's burgeoning star, Sergey Karasev.
The 18-year-old, who helped fire Triumph to a spot in the EuroChallenge Final Four, had seven points, two rebounds and two steals in 15 minutes.
Russia will now have a day to rest before facing the Dominican Republic on Wednesday.
Greece were devastating in their 107-63 Group A victory over Jordan.
In one first-half run, the side coached by Ilias Zouros reeled off 23 unanswered points.
Kostas Papanikolaou had 19 points while Georgios Printezis led all scorers with 10 at the break and finished with 16.
The Greeks were sensational, making pass after pass in their half-court offense en route to 31 assists.
They also out-rebounded Jordan, 51-21.
The games will get much tougher for Russia and Greece, but for the F.Y.R. of Macedonia, they already have.
The Angolans, having played in numerous Olympics and won 10 African titles, beat the side coached by Marin Lazovski, 88-84.
The European team looked tired from the off and had no answers in the first half as Angola hit nine of 13 three-balls and led by as many as 17 points.
After trailing 53-40 at the break, F.Y.R. of Macedonia battled back and got to within six points in the third quarter yet Angola's superior rebounding helped them take a 72-59 lead to the fourth quarter.
With 10 minutes to play, Lazovski's side was being beaten on the boards, 29-15.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia continued to battle and twice cut the gap to just two in the last 15 seconds, but Angola hit four free-throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
Lazovski's team must overcome New Zealand on Tuesday or they will have no chance of advancing to the Quarter-Finals and their Olympic hopes will die.
Should F.Y.R. of Macedonia win against the Tall Blacks and end up second in Group D, there is a good chance they will face Russia - a team they played in two thrilling encounters at EuroBasket 2011 - in the quarters.
Only three places to the London Games are up for grabs in the 12-team OQT.