McCarty's 17 points save Russia
BYDGOSZCZ, Poland -- Defending champion Russia slipped past Greece 68-65 on Sunday and France beat Croatia 87-79 to stay unbeaten at the European basketball championship.
Russia, which has only three players from the team that upset Spain in the 2007 final, struggled in the first round of this year's tournament, and has clearly missed its two top players from the 2007 squad -- Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko and J.R. Holden.
But the team has steadily improved since the opening round, and took a big step toward the quarterfinals with Sunday's victory over a previously unbeaten Greece.
"I think that we controlled the game and we deserved to win," Russia coach David Blatt said. "There is really nobody younger and more inexperienced than us. And to beat Croatia and Greece in three days and the way we did is admirable."
Tied at 48 early in the fourth quarter, Sergey Monya hit a trio of 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to give Russia a nine-point lead, and the defending champions hit enough free throws down the stretch to hold on.
Kelly McCarty had 17 points and nine rebounds for Russia, while center Sofoklis Schortsanitis led Greece with 13.
"Greece is the best offensive team here and we held them down to their tournament low and it says a lot about our game tonight," the American-born McCarty said.
Parker, who plays for the San Antonio Spurs, scored 12 of his 24 points in the third quarter as France turned a five-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead at the start of the fourth.
Earlier Sunday in Group E, point guard Vrbica Stefanov scored 25 points to lead Macedonia past Germany 86-75.
Macedonia broke open a tight game late in the third quarter when Dime Tasovski hit a 3-pointer to spark a 14-2 run that made it 69-52 with just under eight minutes to play.
Tasovski finished with 13 points and five steals as Macedonia picked up its first win in Group E.
Macedonia plays Russia in its final second-round group game on Tuesday, Germany takes on Croatia and group-leader France faces Greece.
The top four teams in Group E and Group F advance to the quarterfinals.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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