Even before the warm-up before the match with the South Korean national team, Sergei Bazarevich’s wards learned great news. In the opening match of the second round of group B, the Argentine team dealt with Nigeria with a score of 94:81. This defeat was the second for the Africans in the tournament, which means that the victory of the Russians in the reporting meeting ahead of schedule brought them to the second group round of the World Cup.
Despite the high importance of the game with the Koreans from the tournament point of view, they should not be perceived as an opponent that could become a serious obstacle to the goal. Yes, they should not be underestimated (the hackneyed expression that they had learned to play basketball at a decent level by 2019, has not lost its relevance in relation to the tournament in the Middle Kingdom), but even by the standards of the Asian region, the South Korean team is not one of top-end.
Three bronze medals of the continent’s championship over the past ten years is, of course, not bad, but against the same teams of China, Iran or Japan, whose leader, and not naturalized, was chosen in the top ten of the 2019 NBA draft, the players of Kim San Shik are disastrous not enough class.
It is impossible to solve this problem by issuing a passport to one, even sensible, American - and the current FIBA rules do not allow more naturalized performers at any official competition.
According to the results of the first duel of Koreans at the World Cup to center Ricardo Ratliff, speaking under the name of Guna Ra, not a single question could arise. In the confrontation with Argentina, he designed a double-double of 31 points and 15 rebounds, having realized almost 50% of his shots from the game, but his efforts did not prevent the Latin Americans from winning by a margin of 26 points.
In a meeting with Russia, history repeated itself. Ratliff was again very productive, the only one among all the participants in the match reached double-digit indicators in two statistical categories and with 19 points in the asset became his most productive basketball player. Only this was too little for the Koreans to claim a loud sensation.
Basketball in their performance, in some places, perhaps even too textbookly, looked good, of course, adjusted for the fact that Bazarevich’s squad had not been defending to their limits for 40 minutes. But losses in simple situations, misses from open positions and countless lost one-on-one confrontations, resulting in 23 personal remarks, did not allow the Asians to organize even a semblance of an ending.
The Russians took the lead in the 37th second after Andrei Vorontsevich marked the first effective action using a cool discount from Vitaliy Fridzon. And they did it all the way to the final siren, which recorded an advantage of 14 points. But this does not mean that the meeting turned out to be quite prolific for them: at least in two moments the team became anxious.
The first of them fell in the second quarter, which the Russian team, if it did not fail, then held clearly below their capabilities. When the Koreans managed to reinforce Ratliff’s activity with several perimeter hits by homegrown snipers, the Bazarevich guys lost the double-digit advantage formed in the opening and almost allowed the opponent to come forward. The most prominent in this segment was Lee Dae Sung, who sold four “three” in the total for the match in nine attempts.
In the five-minute span, for which the Russians only once managed to score a game, only the penalties earned by Mikhail Kulagin, Nikita Kurbanov and Fridzon came to the rescue.
The second similar moment occurred after a long break. At the very beginning of the third quarter, the captain and the most experienced player of the Russian team turned up his ankle and sat down for a long time on the bench. However, nothing terrible happened to the experienced defender. Fridzon returned to the site in the end, marked a couple of company hits and brought his personal score to 13 points. This is the best result in the team along with Vorontsevich.
Kurbanov, who completed the match with a statistical line of 9 assists, 8 points and 7 rebounds, could outshine the partners in theory, but Bazarevich preferred a triple double from the key performer, a competent distribution of forces, and the forward spent only a little more than 26 minutes on the floor.
Well, they predetermined the outcome of the opposition to getting Sergei Karasev in the third quarter. Five of his points in a row lowered the South Korean national team, which tried to give battle to the fourth team of the European continent, from heaven to earth, returned the Russians a head start in three or four possessions and confident control over what was happening. But Bazarevich let absolutely everyone play - even Andrei Sopin, who, like in a meeting with the Nigerians, again in a matter of seconds managed to “bring” three free throws to his ring.
However, all this is secondary: having won two victories in a row, the Russian team as quickly as possible guaranteed itself a place in the second group round of the World Cup, not paying attention to staffing problems and the modest selection of performers on the back line. On Wednesday, September 4, the Bazarevich squad will have to fight Argentina for first place in the group - and the very “passing" victory, which subsequently will be very useful in the fight for a ticket to the quarterfinals.