Sept. 16, 2007
LEWISBURG, Pa. -- J.R. Holden '98 became a hero in Russia on Sunday night, canning a long jump shot with 2.1 seconds left to lift the Russian national team to a stunning 60-59 victory over reigning world champion Spain in the Eurobasket 2007 championship game in Madrid.
The former All-Patriot League guard, who played for coach Pat Flannery at Bucknell, now has dual American and Russian citizenship, allowing him to play for Russia in international events.
The next time he dons the Russian national colors, it will be in the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
Spain, which earlier in the week handed Russia its only loss of the tournament, led 59-58 and had possession of the ball inside 30 seconds to play. But Holden, who has gained quite a reputation throughout Europe for his defensive ability, stripped Memphis Grizzlies star Pau Gasol in the paint with 28 seconds to play.
At the other end he made a dribble move and shot from just inside the 3-point arc. The ball popped up off the rim and fell back through. Gasol had a chance to win it for Spain, but his shot rimmed out at the buzzer.
Holden finished with eight points and two steals in 39 minutes of action, and he averaged 11.6 points per game in the tournament, second on the squad. Andrei Kirilenko of the Utah Jazz scored 17 points to lead Russia and was named Eurobasket MVP.
Russia head coach David Blatt, also an American, cited Holden's defense following the game, noting that in the final three victories he helped shut down three NBA players in Tony Parker, Sarunas Jasikevicius and Jose Calderon.
It was Russia's first European title (the former Soviet Union won 14), and the unheralded team coming in now joins Spain and Lithuania as automatic Olympic qualifiers from Europe. Greece, Slovenia, Germany and Croatia move on to the pre-Olympics qualifying tournament next summer.
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