Serbia’s towering inside players stifled Italy’s offense in the first half, allowing their perimeter players to get out and run the break as they cruised to an 86-66 win to remain undefeated in the qualifying round in Rethimnon.
Italy’s players learned the hard way that, whenever they wanted to attack the basket, they would have to go up against a twin wall of Dejan Musli and Branislav Djekic, respectively 212 and 206 cm tall.
The pair combined for 19 rebounds and five blocked shots but, more importantly, forced
|Alessandro Amici had 13 points and six rebounds in the loss. |
‘We have the best defense of any team in the tournament and of course we have the tallest player in defense with Musli,’ said Aleksandar Obradovic after the game.
‘Our game depends on our defense and tonight we played very well at that end of the court. We led by 11 points at the end of the first quarter and we weren’t really worried after that.’
Musli was also a force once again on offense, finishing with a game-high 18 points.
He crashed the boards relentlessly to give Dragan Vascanin’s side many second chance opportunities as they raced to a 21-10 lead by the end of the first quarter.
Serbia started off slow, committing five fouls in the first 3:30 of the game.
But they recovered and turned an 8-8 tie into a 32-16 lead on Musli’s dunk midway through the second period and rarely had to look over their shoulder the rest of the way.
Italy took a different approach in the second half, trying to spread the floor more and find open outside shots.
That change of strategy proved successful for a while as they cut the lead to 11, 47-36, on Luca Fontecchio’s three-pointer.
But Serbia’s offense was running smoothly throughout the game and they headed into the final quarter with a 66-51 lead which soon grew to over 20 points and a game against Spain tomorrow will decide whether they advance to the semi-finals or not.
‘We look forward to tomorrow’s game.They are the defending champions and a great team but we are confident that we can make good progress to the next stage of the competition,’ Obradovic added.
Nemanja Jamaraz added 15 points for Serbia.
Nicolo Melli led the way for Italy with game-highs of 19 points and 11 rebounds and Alessandro Amici chipped in with 13.