Very few would expect that Russia, who srated their Group E campaign with a 0-2 record, would finish unbeatean in the second Group Phase, but they did it and with three wins in row they made it to the quarter finals.
The first quarter of the game was probably one of the worst basketball performances of Eurobasket. the two teams scored rarely and the score was 2-2 with 6 minutes to go. With less than two minutes the score was tied at 8-8 and thanks to Mozgov the opening quarter finished with Russia leading 14-10.
Mozgov picked up from where he had left in the second quarter and the Russian giards kep feeding him all the time. Both Massey and Samardziski were unable to contain the young giant and Russia increased its lead to nine points, 29-20. FYROM reacted fast and with a 9-4 run, with antic and V.Stefanov leading, they cut the lead to four before the half time, 33-29 for Russia.
FYROM started the second half better and with a good perimeter shooting they made a 11-4 run and took the lead, 40-37. But Russia did not allow them to lead for much and tied the game to 49-49 before the end of the third quarter. FYROM started the last quarter in a better way, again, and took the lead, 57-53. Russian players did not give up and tied the game 58-58. Mozgov was literally unstopable and FYROM big men could not stop him, wathever they tried. In the end Russia almost lost the game due to a silly turnover but Mirakovski missed the coast-to-coast layup and Russian won 71-69.
It is worth mentioning that this was the last official game of Vrbica Stefanov who retired at the age of 36.
RUSSIA 71-69 FYROM
Russia: Vorontsevich 10, Kurbanov 2, Bykov 8, Fridzon 3, McCarty 9, Monya 4, Pokrashov 10, Zozulin, Mozgov 25 (11 rebounds-10 of them offensive)
FYROM: V.Stefanov 16, Mirakovski 1, Sokolov, R. Stefanov, Blazevski, Tasovski 2, Gechevski 16, Antic 19 (10 rebounds), Stojanovski 9, Massey 8, Samardziski
Vrbica Stefanov: "We played a great game. I believe we played great defense. If we had played overtime it would have been great. If we had won it that would have be greater, but I'm still proud of us."
Anton Ponkrashov: "Maybe at the beginning of the tournament few people believed in our team, but we made a second step and now we are in the Quarter-Finals. FYROM played a very good game. Today we missed a lot of three-point shots. But we compensated that with defense."
Jovica Arsic (FYROM coach): "I would like to thank all our fans and friends that supported us during this tournament. We started with Samardzic playing much better on defense but without him we had more options in offense. It's a pity we lost Gacevski in the end. Riste Stefanov and Stojanovski didn't feel good so we had huge problems."
David Blatt (Russia Coach): "FYROM deserve a lot of credit. They played a great game. When you make three-pointers it changes a game a lot. F.Y.R.O.M. took advantage of that. But in the end we proved ourselves better. It was a tough game against a very tough team. It was a tricky game for both of us. I'm proud of my team. Vrbica did I hear that you're retiring? I take my hat off to you and wish you all the best for your future."