BEIJING (Olympics) – Russia came from behind to beat Latvia 62-57 in the final game of the opening day’s play at the Olympics in China.
The Latvians, who got a game-high 24 points from Liene Jansone, rode the strong effort to a nine-point advantage in the third quarter of the Group A game but weren’t able to put the Russians away.
Tatiana Shchegoleva and Ilona Korstin each had 13 points for the Russians, who outscored the Baltic country 21-9 over the final 10 minutes.
“We lost, but we played hard,” Jansone said. “It’s only the first game.”
Ainars Zvirgzdins, the Latvia coach, cut an extremely frustrated figure on the sidelines in the fourth quarter when his team struggled to score.
Afterwards, he said: “This was Latvia’s first game in the Olympics and it’s a different level.
“We just didn’t shoot very well but we’ll learn from this.”
American Becky Hammon, who gained Russian citizenship earlier this year, played in her first Olympics and started the second half with a three-pointer for a 32-31 Russia lead but Latvia then came alive.
She would go on to score 11 points but also turn the ball over four times.
A Zane Tamane bucket started a 10-0 run that was capped by a three-ball from the excellent Jansone for a 41-32 Latvia advantage.
Russia looked to be in trouble but they hit back and closed the gap to 48-47.
After Zane Eglite made one of two at the line, Jansone scored on a lay-up to take her points haul to 24 and increase the lead to 51-47.
An Oxana Rakhmatulina basket ended up tying the contest at 51-51 midway through the fourth quarter and then center Maria Stepanova put the Russians on top for good with a free throw.
After Latvia misfired, they fouled Korstin and she made two at the line for a 54-52 lead.
Rakhmatulina followed with a jumper to make it 56-52 and Korstin buried a three-ball for a 59-52 lead.
There was no way back for Latvia.
“It was a very good first game for us,” Korstin said.
“We made some mistakes with help defense. We wanted to start well and I’m happy that we found this team spirit.
“I’m very glad that we found this spirit. It’s very important when you play together and as a team.”