An Andrey Vorontsevich double-double of 18 points and 11 rebounds helped Russia overcome a plucky New Zealand side, 78-56 to reach the quarter finals in Istanbul.
New Zealand’s prolific, Kirk Penney scored 21 points, but he, like the rest of the Tall-Blacks are heading home. For veterans, Pero Cameron and Phill Jones, this defeat was the final chapter on storied basketball careers, as they both announced their retirements.
The first two quarters saw both sides fail to break-out into a sizeable lead. But, once the third quarter began, New Zealand’s key-players, Penney and Mika Vukona quickly picked up their fourth fouls, and Russia took full advantage – and pushed ahead, leaving the Oceania giants behind.
“Congratulations to coach Blatt and the Russian national team for a great performance.” New Zealand coach, Nenad Vucinic commented.
“We were not happy with the way we played today. Offensively, things we usually do well we didnt do well. We really wanted this game so badly, we wanted it a little bit too much and we burned out.”
Russia started slowly though, they were on the wrong end of a 9-2 start. But, a mixture of New Zealand shots not dropping, and four straight points from Dimitriy Khvostov levelled things up at 11.
The Tall-Blacks though edged, what was a dull first quarter 15-13.
Russia started to pull away in the second quarter, after New Zealand had led, 21-16. Vorontsevich, Alexandar Kaun and a Sergey Monya three-pointer gave Russia a 29-21 lead with over three minutes to go in the half.
Russia then locked down New Zealand’s sharpshooters and in the third and fourth quarters, with Penney and Vukona sat down, David Blatt’s Russia pulled away.
“We played a tremendous defensive game, we followed the game plan perfectly from a defensive standpoint.” Blatt commented after the game.
“We held them to 56 when they usually score 85 a game, and that is no easy task against a well coached team that run offensive sets that a far more sophisticated than most teams here, and have a game-breaker like Kirk Penney.
“This team (New Zealand) is capable of beating almost anyone here, including us.” Blatt finished.
Russia will now play the United States in the last-eight.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net