With a win Tuesday, the Dominican Republic (1-1) was already set to play in the quarterfinals of the of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament set for Friday where they will face Macedonia. But Wednesday presented a test to see just how far along this Dominican Republic team has come along.
They may not have won, but Dominican Republic head coach John Calipari has his team playing hard, competitive basketball at the right time.
The Dominicans fell to No. 11 Russia 84-69, but the game was closer than the score indicates. They held their own against a tough Russian team for a good portion of the game and pulled even with the Russians in the second quarter.
A slow start hurt the Dominicans, but as he did Tuesday afternoon, forward Al Horford came through in big way to help the Dominicans charge back. Horford, scoring only four points in the first quarter after a 30-point performance the day prior, sparked a 9-4 run in the second quarter to help pull the Dominicans into a 27-27 deadlock in the middle of the period. He would finish the quarter with eight points and the half with 12 as the Dominicans trailed the Russians 44-38, still right in the game.
Jack Michael Martinez found rebounds much tougher to come by against the Russian rebounders. Martinez grabbed 25 boards in their winning effort over Korea, but only had six points and four rebounds through the first half. However, he would finished strong in the second half to notch his second-consecutive double-double, 13 points and 12 rebounds.
A poor shooting second half plagued the Dominicans as they struggled to get anything to fall. Though Horford continued his solid play finishing with 22 for the game, and Martinez came on in the second half, they had virtually no help. As a team, they shot 25 for 68 from the field including just 5 of 20 from beyond the arc. Francisco Garcia of the Kings scored just two points while miss all seven of his three-point attempts.
The Russians pulled away early in the second half and never really looked back, pulling off a 84-69 win led by current Utah Jazz Andrei Kirilenko who had 16 points for Russia.
But the Olympic hopes for the Dominicans are still very much alive with a win over top seed Macedonia from Group D standing in the way. The winner advances to the semifinals, and the loser goes home.