Artem Komolov and Denis Zakharov had reason to celebrate as Russia surprised everyone by beating Turkey
A razor-sharp Russia dominated an often lethargic Turkey from start to finish on Friday to claim an 82-70 triumph and a place in the semi-finals of the Sportland U20 European Championship in Tallinn.
TURNING POINT: Turkey employed a 2-1-2 zone in the second quarter that enabled them to put Russia on pause for a while and gain some confidence on offence to reduce the deficit to 14 points, when first Maksim Sakharov and then Denis Zakharov drilled two triples from the left corner in quick succession to bring Russia's lead back to 19 points, 43-24 and despair the Turks.
GAME HEROES: Russia's sublime defensive coverage was what propelled them to victory, but Denis Zakharov was a true inspiration on the offensive end, either executing or creating for his team-mates every time he had the ball in his hands.
STATS DON'T LIE: Russia looked for the open man with text-book efficiency and had 11 assists after thirty minutes, drilling 8 of their first 12 three-point attempts and shooting 52% from two-point range in the process, while Turkey were 36% from the floor during the first three periods.
Russia commenced the encounter energetically and with admirable tactical discipline, using ten players already during the first quarter to maintain intensity, and their impressive defensive rotations forced Turkey to short-circuit on offence right from tip-off.
While Turkey could not circulate the ball and scored seven points in the opening quarter purely out of individual plays, the free-flowing Russia came with answers to everything and grabbed a 26-7 lead on a spectacular Aleksander Zakharov buzzer-beater.
When an alert Artem Komolov intercepted a Turkish inbound pass delivered almost in slow motion and made it 37-16 for Russia with a dunk, Turkey called a time-out.
They changed to the zone defence that looked like the solution to their woes, before it was put to rest by Russia's thee-point accuracy from the corner.
Russia maintained their 19-point lead intact at the half-time interval and Komolov received an excellent pass from Zakharov to sink an open three and take the difference to a game-high 25 points, 64-39, with just 2:47 left to play in the third quarter.
After this, Turkey resorted to a full-court press that produced amazing results as they forced Russia to a five-minute dry spell bridging the third and fourth quarters and scored 11 points to bring the difference down to 14 for the first time since the second frame.
But when Denis Zakharov scored four points from the foul line on consecutive possessions to end Russia's draught once and for all, there were less than seven minutes on the clock and Turkey still had a mountain to climb, a fact that could not change despite their late heroics who reduced the gap even to nine points momentarily just before the final buzzer.
Denis Zakharov finished with 24 points and six assists, Sakharov had 14 points and Komolov chipped in with 13 points and four rebounds for Russia.
For Turkey, big man Ramazan Tekin had 15 points and four rebounds in a losing effort.