If there was a game John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team could afford to lose in its quest to make the Olympics, it was Wednesday against world power Russia.
Russia, ranked No. 11 in the world in the latest FIBA rankings, overpowered the Dominican Republic on Wednesday in the final game of group play for both teams in the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The Russians imposed their will in the third quarter and cruised in the fourth for an 84-69 victory.
The good news for the Dominican Republic is its hopes for the country’s first-ever Olympics bid remain alive. By beating Korea on Tuesday, the Dominicans had already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals.
The Dominican Republic (1-1), the No. 2 seed from Group C, will play Macedonia, the top seed from Group D, on Friday at 5:30 p.m. ET. All three teams from Group D went 1-1, but Macedonia, ranked No. 33 in the world, won the group with a point differential of 18.
The winner of the Dominican Republic-Macedonia game will still have a chance to make the Olympics; the loser will go home.
The Dominicans looked poised to claim the top spot in Group C and upset Russia in the first half. After falling behind early 8-0, the Dominicans climbed back into the game and actually took the lead a few times in the second quarter.
Al Horford had a strong first half with 12 points and the Dominican Republic held its own on the glass against the bigger, stronger Russians, but Russia took a six-point halftime lead to the locker room thanks to a late 10-1 run.
The Dominicans opened the third quarter with some sloppy play and Russia took advantage. Five turnovers and two technical fouls in the first four minutes of play led to a 13-2 Russia run and a 17-point lead.
Coach Cal’s team would try to claw back in it over the remaining 16 minutes, but the Dominicans could never slice the deficit to single digits. In the end, they simply didn’t hit enough shots (25 of 63) to keep up with Russia.
Horford was one of only two Dominicans in double figures with 22 points. Jack Michael Martinez posted another double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.