Ukraine, at the last, deny Estonia to preserve perfect start
MILAN (Italy) – Ukraine snatched a dramatic 74-73 win over Estonia in Milan to remain unbeaten at FIBA EuroBasket 2022.
Illya Sydorov, who scored 8 of his 11 points in the final period, grabbed the victors' first and only lead of the entire game with a putback with 55 seconds left on the clock. It proved decisive as Estonia – twice ahead by as many as 10 points – could not break through once again and were left dejected when Kristian Kullamae’s contested three at the very end fall short.
It brought disappointment for an estimated 2,000 boisterous traveling fans who saw their team reel off 10 unanswered points at the start of the first period. And although Ukraine eventually ignited to level, another 9-0 run provided a 25-15 lead early in the second.
The Ukrainians turned to their NBA duo, Alex Len and Svi Mykhailiuk, to drive the paint. It keyed a 14-5 response that trimmed the deficit to 35-33 at halftime.
The young legs of Estonia, in pursuit of only a second win in a EuroBasket Final Round since 1993, continued to run and run, building a 47-37 advantage in the third. But Mykhailiuk asserted himself as a facilitator, feeding Volodymyr Herun to reduce the gap to one ahead of Sydorov’s dagger.
Turning Point: Closing the contest with the final four points, Ukraine required patience and execution in the fourth quarter when they picked their spots and chased rebounds even when the shots did not fall.
TCL Player of the Game: Svi Mykhailiuk had a game-high 18 points for Ukraine on 6-for-11 shooting but his influence on and off the ball did so much to keep Ukraine locked in, even when behind.
Stats Don’t Lie: Although Ukraine took 9 fewer field goal attempts, they converted 51 percent to Estonia’s 36 – with the winners particularly effective from 2-pointers with a 70 percent success rate, their highest scoring ratio ever in a EuroBasket game.
Bottom Line: Ukraine, with two wins over their presumed close rivals in Group C, now feel they are closing on the second phase of EuroBasket 2022 in Berlin. Estonia, still winless, must simply keep trusting the process.
"What is the important thing I learnt from Mike Fratello? He said is that tactically and technically, it doesn't mean anything. He said something that's more important: how do you know your players' mentality?" - Ukraine head coach Ainars Bagatskis
"We came here and we weren't thinking yet about about Italy, Greece and Croatia. Our main goal was to beat Great Britain and Estonia and after that, play 100% as we can for every next game. But we all understood that our main part was to win both games. And we did. We're happy about it." -Ukraine guard Illya Sydorov
"The option was to attack immediately and tried to draw the foul ... Kristian slipped a little bit, lost his balance and was trying to then throw the ball somewhere. So another unlucky position in those last moments. The basketball gods was not on our side." - Jukka Toijala