Toni Prostran and Ivan Batur showed just why they are a feared twosome in this tournament as they combined for 48 points to lead Croatia past Ukraine 84-62 in the qualifying round in Rethimnon.
Prostran, who finished with a game-high 32 points in just 26 minutes, used his poor
performance in a loss to Turkey yesterday – in which he shot four for 19 from the field for his tournament low of 11 points – as a source of motivation for today’s game.
|Ivan Batur chipped in for Croatia with 16 points and six assists.|
‘I didn’t think that I could play as poorly as I did yesterday. I thought “it can’t happen two days in a row” so I’m glad I was right,’ he said afterwards.
The 181cm guard had 28 points on 10 of 13 shooting – including seven of nine from three-point range – by half time as he helped his team turn a 23-23 tie at the end of the first quarter into a 43-33 lead at the break.
Batur, who had a quiet first half – and who himself had a game to forget against the 2005 champions yesterday – took over from Prostan after the break, and chipped in with 16 points and six assists, setting up his team-mates for easy baskets on numerous occasions.
Andriy Lebedintsev tried his best to keep Ukraine in the game and got them within 13, 58-45, with just over three minutes left in the third period, but Croatia had too much firepower on the day with four players scoring in double digits.
Oleg Ruban’s men got off to a good start thanks to Lebedintsev and forward Mas Konate who was a force inside early on.
But they had to contend with Prostran who just couldn’t miss in the first quarter, making all six of his field goal attempts, including all four from beyond the arc as he accounted for 16 of his team’s first 23 points.
Prostran, who is from the same town of Zadar as Batur and has played with him for 10 years, said it just comes easy for him to play with the 190cm guard.
‘We have done it for so long it really is like second nature. We don’t really think about it. As long as it works and helps our team, its all that matters,’ he said.
Croatia’s coach Vladimir Vanjak welcomed the win following the defeat to Turkey.
‘This result helps our chances to finish in the top eight of the competition so it’s a big win.’
Lebedintsev finished with 15 points for Ukraine and Konate had 12.