OLYMPICS DAY 5: RUSSIA PUSH GB TO BRINK

Great Britain’s women are defeated 67-61 by Russia on Wednesday at the Olympic Games. 

Natalie Stafford had a game-high 18 points for Team GB who rallied from 14 down in the third period to close within three in the closing minutes.

But Ilona Korstin sparked a late Russian run to leave GB winless in Group B.

“I thought it was an excellent performance,” Maher stated “This is the second time we’ve ever played Russia in our history in a proper tournament. They’re a famous basketball country, and we played well, we just couldn’t get it together in the end.”

Great Britain started brightly, going on an early 8-0 run in the first to lead 12-2, highlighted by two buckets inside from Temi Fagenble. GB were aggressive, yet composed and Russia were struggling to shoot the ball well.

The Russians then introduced San Antonio Stars guard Becky Hammon to the game and the 2011 EuroBasket Women winners responded to Britain’s run with a 12-2 run of their own as the Brits struggled to match Russia’s power inside. Kim Butler ended the run with a mid-range jumper.

Russia had the last laugh, as they edged the first quarter 16-14, but a number of positives from the Olympic host nation.

Stafford scored in the lane to start the second quarter but Russia played on, despite the passionate British cheer, they were deadly from three-point land throughout the quarter, as GB’s perimeter defence was slow to get out to the Russian shooters.

Stafford responded to the GB chants from the 9,538 crowd inside the Basketball Arena by draining a three of her own but Russia were in control as the half came to an end, Great Britain were behind 39-27, thanks to a Marina Kuzina three on the buzzer.

Stafford began third quarter proceedings with a score off her own miss, and the guard hit again to trim the deficit to 39-31.

But Russia were in irresistible form from three-point land, as Evgeniya Belyakova drained a triple and an inside bucket from Kuzina put the Russians 45-34 up as they looked comfortable at both ends of the floor.

GB though struck back, Stafford hit five quick-fire points and with 2:05 remaining in the quarter, Rose Anderson stole a cross-court pass and went un-challenged for the lay-up to slim Russia’s lead to 48-43.

The roar from the Team GB faithful was deafening.

By the end of the third, a bucket from Leedham gave Great Britain hope going into the fourth; they were down 52-45.

Stafford connected to open GB’s account for the fourth quarter just after Becky Hammon opened the scoring. Leedham then trimmed it more with a triple at 56-50, but Russia, facing a huge amount of pressure from not just the British defence, but from the fanatical support inside.

Russia responded to lead again by double digits and take the game out of Great Britain’s reach, despite a late burst from the Brits. A Chantelle Handy three on the final buzzer was not enough.

“We battled really hard as a team,” Stafford said. “Russia is a great basketball nation and a great team and we worked our butts off but it was our inexperience and confidence, we made some crucial errors down the stretch and it was lost from there.” 

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August 1

Other Games: Canada 60-64 France, China 76-52 Angola, Australia 67-61 Brazil, Croatia v Czech Rep (8pm), USA v Turkey (10.15pm)

Pic: Mansoor Ahmed 

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