France fall flat in Ukraine; Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jones sink Belgium on opening night
MUNICH (Germany) - There were plenty of eye-catching results as the FIBA Women's EuroBasket 2023 Qualifiers tipped-off on Thursday night and none more so than favorites France being torn down by Ukraine.
After five consecutive runners-up places and having taken bronze at Tokyo 2020, expectations are high for this France team, but the new regime of recently appointed play-caller Jean-Aime Toupane got off to a disastrous start.
France were well beaten 90-71 in Kiev by Ukraine, with Alina Iagupova going off for 33 points and Krystyna Filevych, who barely missed a shot, scoring 27. Tetiana Yurkevichus excelled on the glass with a mammoth 19 boards to go with her 5 points.
Also in Group B, Lithuania proved too strong for Finland as the experienced Kamile Nacickaite and Gintare Petrontye shared 32 points in a 69-59 triumph.
French coach Valery Demory, who took charge of his opening game with Belgium, watched on as the Cats were beaten 87-81 at Bosnia and Herzegovina and Jonquel Jones put up an unstoppable 44 points and 22 rebounds. However, a big last quarter by the visitors could prove vital in the final group shake-up as they reduced the deficit significantly.
Germany were the other winners in the same pool as they eased past North Macedonia 73-41.
Spain were almost a victim of an upset but coach Miguel Mendez breathed a sigh of relief as his team edged out Hungary 66-62 on the road. Maria Conde garnered 16 points and 13 rebounds, while in the other Group C contest, Romania had saw off Iceland 65-59, with a massive 19-point and 18-rebound effort from Nicolett Orban the difference-maker.
Italy celebrated a nail-biting and pulsating roller-coaster victory in Slovakia as they came out on top 69-66 after an amazing 26-10 final quarter.
Nicole Romeo made a big bucket in the last 30 seconds and had 19 points, while Cecilia Zandalasini did the same in the clutch and netted 17 points. In the same group Switzerland eked out a 58-54 win over Luxembourg with Eva Herminjard firing 29 points and collecting 11 rebounds.
There was disappointment for 2023 co-hosts Israel and Slovenia as they both fell to losses, so it's probably just as well they have automatic places at the showpiece event.
Israel jumped out on Latvia with a 20-6 start but the visitors sneaked a 62-56 success. The leadership of center Anete Steinberga was priceless as she contributed 24 points and 11 rebounds for Latvia, while Elina Babkina and Kitija Laksa had 18 and 16 points respectively.
Slovenia head coach Giorgios Dikaioulakos had a night to forget for his first game at the helm, with his team well beaten 78-62 by Turkey. Kiah Stokes brought it for the visitors in the paint with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Also in Group D, Poland wiped out Albania 125-19.
Russia showed their potential with a comfortable 85-64 Group F win in Montenegro as Maria Vadeeva led like always with 19 points. Denmark also got off to a winning start in the pool by beating Austria 82-48 as Anna Seilund showed out with a perfect 9 of 9 shooting night en-route to 22 points.
Greece took a strong first foot forward in their campaign as they beat Great Britain 73-66 with Maria Fasoula catching the eye as the center contributed 12 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. Also in Group G, Portugal had little difficulty in beating Estonia 62-43.
Finally, Belarus and Netherlands got off to winning starts in Group I. The former won a crunch game 66-60 in Czech Republic thanks mainly to 25 points from Maryia Papova, plus 17 points and 12 rebounds from Anastasiya Veramyeneka. Netherlands were too strong for Ireland, winning 82-60, with Kourtney Treffers top-scoring with 18 points.