Russia’s coach David Blatt paid tribute to the 43 people that perished in Yaroslavl, as they defeated Finland 79-60 in Vilnius.
Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 14 points, as David Blatt’s side made light work of the Finns who now face an uphill battle to advance to Kaunas.
After a close first quarter, which Russia trimmed, 18-14, they held Finland to just six points in the second period which turned out to be the turning point in the match.
“Today for us, it was a very important game on two different levels. The first professionally we wanted very badly to qualify for the quarter final, we did that,” Blatt said at the post-game press conference.
“Secondly, and more importantly we played the game in honour of the Lokomotiv hockey team and on that team were citizens of the world not only Russians but athletes, coaches, administrators, staff members from different places on the planet,” Blatt commented.
The moment was not helped by the national anthem mix-up to start the game, as the wrong national anthem for Russia was played. FIBA and the Local Organising Committee apologised for the very rare error.
“Accidents happen, it wasn’t great, but it’s touching that FIBA are remembering the victims,” a Russian journalist said after the press conference.
Once the game eventually got going, Russia pulled away in the second, and their lead grew to to 20 points thanks to an Andrey Vorontsevich throw-down.
Finland won the fourth quarter, 22-20. But it was too little, too late.
Shawn Huff led the additional qualifiers, Finland, as he matched Kirilenko with 14 of his own.