Stepanova Too Much For France

Russia’s tallest player, Maria Stepanova, 19 points, 7 defensive rebounds, 5 blocks, and if not enough 2 assists and 2 steals, was the thorn in the French side! From the tip-off, which she won, until the interval, she made sure that there was only one centre but her! Although the French coach, Jacques Commères, frequently changed Maria’s markers, she single-handedly kept the French at bay.

With all the attention on Maria Stepanova, Tatiana Shchegoleva found space to do what she does best and entered the zone and scored 14 from 16 points in the paint. Despite the Russian dominance France almost stole the game in the last period.

After the initial round of pleasantries and France leading for the only time in the match (5:4), Russia went to work and hit France with 13 unanswered points in a space of 4 minutes with a complement of fast breaks and impressive defence. A French timeout did not change their fortune and they only managed to stop Russia’s advance from the free-throw line. Emily Gomis’ pace caused the Russians some problems, Emmeline Ndongue profited with a rare French field goal from mid-range, off a pass from Emily. Emily Gomis went on to finish the first quarter with a 3-point play to bring France back into the game to reduce the deficit to 8 points.

Then Clémence Beikes came off the bench at the start of the second period and was the key of a brief French revival by scoring two quick baskets. Then Russia stepped up in defence pushing France to take mid-range shots with little success.

Russia extended their advantage to 17 points early in the third quarter when France finally woke up with a 7-point run. But France were unable to maintain any consistency and trailed by 11 points going into the last quarter.

Russia may have had an all-dominating number 11 (Stepanova), but France also had a strong number 11 (Gomis) who went all out and with the help of Sabrina Reghaissia with two bombs from down-town bringing France to within1 point (56:55) with about 210 seconds remaining in the game. With the match nearing it conclusion Oxana Rakhmatulina finished off a couple of slick Russian moves with clinical shooting as Russia held on to win (63-59).

France were left undone by a poor shooting percentage 31% on the night and will need to improve in their last group game against the hosts Italy

Top Scorers: Maria Stepanova (19),Emilie Gomis (16)

Comment of the Day:

Jacky Commères: "We have to win on Wednesday in order not to handicap ourselves for the rest of the competition. We have already beaten them recently during our preparation and we have to repeat that but we have to play our way and impose our style against them tomorrow and that has to be our defence. As for today it is difficult to beat top quality teams when shooting 8-of-30 like we did in the first half, when you lose a match it is always difficult to talk about the positive side of the game , but at no point did the players give up in this match, defensively we were sound but offensively we did not have much luck, our objective was not to give up easy points on the offensive rebound and not turn over the ball, which they did, we did okay from the free throw line and our fast breaks worked."

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