With an incredible 34-2 run spanning two quarters, Croatia defeated Turkey 80-67 and claimed second place in the Group B Preliminary Round.
Trailing 39-28 in the second quarter, Croatia went on a 10-2 run to close the half. The trend continued in the second half as Croatia opened the third quarter by scoring an astonishing 24 unanswered points. Turkey committed five turnovers and didn't score in the quarter until 1:38 remained.
|Nikola Vujcic led Croatia with 20 points|
“It was my and our best game of the tournament,” Vujcic said. “This was a very important game for us and I am glad we came out and played so well.”
The 34-2 run was astonishing, even to Croatia's players.
“I can never remember going on such a run,” Vujcic said.
“It was hard to watch,” said Hidayet Turkoglu, who watched from the bench during a good part of the third quarter.
Turkey cut Croatia´s lead in the fourth quarter, but couldn't get closer than 10 points.
Giricek finished with 16 points while Planinic added 14.
“We knew we had to run because Turkey is an older team,” said Planinic. “In the second half, I think you saw the real Croatian team.
Turkey had to play without sharpshooter Ibrahim Kutluay, who broke his finger in the first quarter of yesterday's win over Bulgaria. He returned to Turkey earlier today and will not be available for the remainder of EuroBasket.
Turkish center Kaya Peker established an early low-post presence by scoring nine first-quarter points to help the Turks jump out to a 23-17 first quarter lead. Peker led Turkey in scoring with 23 points.
Mehmet Okur struggled once again, finishing in single-digits for the second game in Preliminary Round play.
Croatia will play Italy in an elimination game in Podgorica for the right to go to the quarter-finals. Turkey's path to the quarter-finals will be more difficult as they must must travel to Vrsac where they will play Germany.
The two teams, after having got into a fight in their last encounter, amicably congratulated each other and shook hands before heading into their respective locker rooms at the end of the game.
Croatia and Turkey will fight it out for second place in Group B this evening at the Moraca Sports Center in Podgorica. One can only hope that the “fighting out” is in a non-violent basketball way, contrary to what occurred when the two teams last played.
A fight marred Turkey´s 75-72 win against Croatia in the 2003 EuroBasket. Following the final buzzer, players from both sides started to fight with each other and spectators threw things on the court.
“We want to forget about the fight,” Croatian guard Gordan Giricek said. “But if something happens, we'll stand up for ourselves. We respect everyone, but are not afraid of anyone.”
|Gordan Giricek |
The stakes will be high for their encounter this evening, with the winner securing second place in Group B. The loser would have to travel to Vrsac to play the second seed in Group A, while the winner will remain in Podgorica to play the third place team from Group A.
“We have to forget about the past,” Croatian coach Neven Spahija said. “It is the current game that counts.”
Croatia defeated Bulgaria in their opener and then suffered an 85-67 setback yesterday against Lithuania.
Turkey lost in the opener to Lithuania and then defeated Bulgaria 94-89 last night. Turkey trailed by as many as 12 in the fourth quarter before rallying for the victory.
“We have to play smarter,” Turkoglu said. “We´ve made a lot of stupid mistakes in our first two games.”
Overall, the two teams have played seven times in EuroBasket, with Turkey winning four of the meetings. In the 2001 quarterfinals, Turkey defeated Croatia 87-85 and eventually claimed the silver medal.
Gordan Giricek leads Croatia in scoring, tallying 20.5 over his team´s first two games. Mirsad Turkcan tops Turkey´s offense with 16 points per game.
Turkey will hope to get more production from Mehmet Okur, who has averaged 10 points and four rebounds so far.
An interesting match-up on the perimeter features NBA talents Turkoglu and Giricek.