by Paul Nilsen
Serbia bounced straight back from their bitterly disappointing opening loss against Turkey by registering their first win in Napoli with a crucial 60-39 success against Sweden.
Serbia always looked to be in control but of course that was also true in their first game when they threw it away in the closing minutes. This time they were to make no mistake by blowing Sweden out in the third period to leave Coach Zoran Kovacic happy and looking forward to a mouth watering final group game with the hosts.
"We did not always play like we know how in the first game against Turkey because we had a very bad last two minutes and this cost us the game."
"We knew that we had to show our real game and get back to showing everyone what ou normal level is. I thought today against Sweden we did this."
"It was important that we played as a team and showed what we can do on the court."
"We will not surrender against Italy in the final game of the group. They are a good team but our attitude will be good."
"We are going to show again that we can play the same as we did against Sweden today."
As in the first game against Turkey, Serbia got off to a great start with a 14-8 first quarter lead with Milica Toskovic showing her prowess from the perimeter with a pair of triples.
Sweden meanwhile still looked to be feeling the after effects of their opening night horror show against hosts Italy but they did at least pick it up in the second quarter with the rebounding of Paulina Hersler and Nathalie Fontaine crucial. The pair combined for 12 rebounds in the half and that kept Serbia from doing further damage as well as giving their team the platform to ensure they trailed by only 27-24 at the break.
However having looked like they would give Serbia a real fight in the second half, Sweden self-destructed after the break. Serbia also showed blowing their lead against Turkey in the first game might have been merely a blip.
The Serbians outscored Sweden 20-4 to break the game wide open with Marija Radosevic drilling a couple of triples while defensively they kept a strangehold on the Swedish offence which went to pieces completely.
Influential center Amanda Zahui spent much of her time in the second half having treatment for a knee problem and only managed to play a couple of minutes at the start which left Sweden looking short of a Plan B.
While Zahui went for just 3 of 14 in the first half and was hampered by her injury, the other players struggled to know where to put the ball without her on court in the second half and her absence seemed to contribute.
Coach Johansson was not surprisingly left pulling his hair out as his team threw the ball away 11 times in the third period, both losing control and with it, the game. Indeed a game that during the half time break they had at least looked like they were capable of winning. Now they could be heading to the classification round after two big losses.