By David Hein
Turning point: Serbia came out like gangbusters in the second quarter, reeling off a 17-0 run to turn a 24-21 deficit into a 38-24 lead. The advantage swelled to 20 points in the third quarter and Russia never got closer than 10 points the rest of the way.
Hero: Kosta Perovic. The Serbian center scored 11 of his 13 points in the second quarter and nine of them in the decisive 17-0 surge.
Stats: 8 of 18. Serbia shot 44 percent from three-point range as they continually drained long balls in the second half to keep Russia from getting back into the game.
Two years after bowing out in the first round in Spain, the youngest team at EuroBasket 2009 Serbia booked the first berth in the semi-finals by dethroning the defending champions Russia 79-68 in the first quarter-final.
Serbia used a 17-0 second quarter run to take control of the game and never looked back with Uros Tripkovic leading five Serbs in double figures with 18 points.
Kosta Perovic scored a personal tournament-high 13 points for Serbia off the bench. Novica Velickovic also had 13 points while Milos Teodosic collected 12 points and four assists and Nenad Krstic chipped in 10 points.
|Uros Tripkovic led five Serbians in double-figure scoring with 18 points. |
"This is a great result for us. We came into the tournament with a goal of booking a place into next year's world championships and now we are in the semi-finals. It's a fantastic effort," said Kristic, who is the oldest player on Serbia at 26 years of age.
Krstic also praised his center back-up Perovic, who scored nine points in the big 17-0 run in the second quarter.
"He played great. He was unstoppable for a while and it goes to show that this team really does go 12 deep. Every one of our players can be a key contributor," said the NBA big man.
"I think we deserved this victory tonight. We have reached our first target, which was qualifying for Turkey. The key of the game was our bench players. We really played as a team. Also keep was the defense in the second quarter," said Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic
Serbia - who in this tournament have now knocked off reigning world and European champions - will next play the winner of Friday's quarter-final between Slovenia and Croatia for a spot in Sunday's final in Katowice.
Russia lost despite 15 points from Vitalii Fridzon but David Blatt's men could not overcome the 17-0 surge. Sergey Monya scored 12 points and Timofey Mozgov had 10 points.
"There are some games when you can come and make statements and excuses. But this was one not of them. They dominated in every category. It was pretty clear who was the better team today," said Blatt.
"Serbia pretty much did what they wanted against anything we did. And we couldn't handle the things they threw at us in the second quarter."
The first quarter was a back and forth affair with neither team leading by more than four points with six lead changes. The game was also tied eight times.
Krstic scored nine points in the quarter as Mozgov could not afford to get in foul trouble. Russia, however, shot 67 percent from the field and led 24-21.
But Blatt's men could not do anything offensively in the second quarter. They turned the ball over on three straight possessions and went scoreless for the first 7:29 of the period as Serbia reeled off a 17-0 run for a 38-24 lead. Perovic scored nine points in the big run - matching his highest game total of the tournament.
In the end, Serbia led 41-28 at intermission.
Russia looked dead in the water, trailing 52-32 with 5:32 left in the third quarter. But Blatt's men allowed just one basket the rest of the period, finishing on a 9-0 run with Sergey Bykov hitting a layup just before the buzzer to make it 54-43.
Russia continued to come back in the fourth quarter but Tripkovic nailed a triple and Teodosic knocked down back-to-back three-pointers to keep the Serbs ahead 66-51.
The champs refused to give up but could not get closer than 10 points the rest of the way - 66-56 on Fridzon's trey with four minutes to play.