It was do-or-die for the Emus, with the win securing fourth place in Group F, leading to a cross-over match-up with Spain, who finished in first place in Group E, despite going down to Lithuania last night in their only loss of the tournament to date.
Dante Exum led the way for the Emus with 20 points and 6 assists, while Dane Pineau added 16 points and Emmett Naar 15 points.
Igor Kanygin led Russia’s attack with a team-high 17 points, while Mikhail Kulagin added a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds.
Russia began the stronger, leading for much of the first term, and taking a 14-12 advantage into the first break. Big man Igor Kanygin was active early with a couple of key baskets, before Dane Pineau and Nicholas Duncan helped to bridge the gap to two late in the term.
Scores remained close in the second quarter, with Australia making their break in the final two minutes on the back of dual made three-point baskets from Duncan, taking the score from 27 apiece, to a 33-27 Emus halftime advantage.
The Australians knocked down 50 per cent of their three-point attempts for the game, thanks to some hot shooting from beyond the arc by Duncan (3 from 3) and Naar (3 from 4).
Australia stretched their lead to 10 points early in the second half, but the resilient Russians clawed back the deficit in a see-sawing term, before the Emus set up a 55-48 lead heading into a desperate final term for both sides.
Exum and Pineau sparked an early fourth quarter scoring onslaught that finally broke the back of the Russians, pushing out the Aussie lead and claiming a memorable, 17-point victory for the group.
The Aussies were impressive from the field, dropping 49 per cent from the floor and 50 per cent from the three-point line. A good shooting performance seems to be the antidote for delivering success for the Emus this tournament and they will need to be consistent offensively if they are to topple one of the premier basketball nations in the World, Spain, when they meet on Friday night.
The Australia V Spain match tips off at 11:30PM AEST on Friday night and is streaming live through LiveBasketball.tv. Follow the game and all the Aussie results at www.prague2013.fiba.com.
Australian Emus 78 (Exum 20, Pineau 16, Naar 15, Duncan 13) defeated Russia 61 (Kanygin 17, Kulagin 14, Pershin 7)