Greece Run Past Croatia

08.09.2009

By Yarone Arbel

Game Summary

Turning point: Nikos Zisis and Ioannis Bouroursis led an 8-0 run mid-way through the second quarter to make it a 15 point game, after a close start.

Hero: Bourousis is now the big leader of the Greek team. He finished the game with 19 points but 17 of them came in the first half when Greece made the big run and actually secured the win.

Stats: Greece scored no less than 32 points in the second quarter in which they missed only three shots from the field in 14 attempts.

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The fate of Group A played in Poznan is set after Greece beat Croatia 76-68 in a one-sided game despite the final result.

Following today's results Israel is eliminated and will finish last, while Greece secured the first spot and will carry two wins to the Qualifying Round, putting them in a great position. The two teams will meet tomorrow in a game that can't influence their fate.

Croatia and the F.Y.R of Macedonia have secured their spot in the next phase as well and will go head-to-head tomorrow to decide who will take the second spot in Group A and have a win in their pocket in the Qualifying Round.

Despite the eight point difference with the buzzer the game was totally dominated by Greece.

They controlled every aspect of the game, and held a 21 point lead already in the first quarter.

Croatia made a big run in the closing minutes and cut the gap to only six, but the Greeks stayed in control.

"Greece played an amazing second quarter and took a big lead, and it was very difficult for us to get back from there," shared Nikola Vujcic.

"We tried to shock them like they did to us in 2007, but the time expired too soon," he said with a smile.

Ioannis Bourousis in a first half that should set an example for anybody who wishes to be a modern center, was the hero of the day for Greece.

He scored 12 points already in the first quarter, but continued his domination in the second quarter, changing the game.

Greece scored no less than 32 points in that period, nearly didn't miss a shot from close and distance and opened the big gap that made it clear who's going to win this battle.

Bourousis finished with 19 points and eight rebounds followed by Vasilis Spanoulis with 11 points and two youngsters with ten each - Kostas Koufos and Efstratios Perperoglou.

Croatia saw 15 points by Roko-Leni Ukic and 13 by Vujcic.

"I'm really surprised how well we play, because this is a young team and not many players have experience in these levels," confessed Nikos Zisis after the game.

"We still need to work on some things to make better results in the next phases but I'm happy with a lot of the things we showed so far," he added.

Ukic and Mario Kasun shared the first 10 points for Croatia but Bourousis was the man for the Greeks who stayed close and held an 11-10 lead after 6:30.

Additional points in the paint by Bourousis and Koufos opened a small gap and an off balance three ball by the big Bourousis set the first quarter score on 20-15.

Bourousis came off the bench for a big offensive rebound that showed how much Greece want the game more, and the gap jumped to 38-23.

Ukic tried to change things by himself but only saw Perperoglou and Zisis make it a 16 point game, 45-29 with 2:24 to play in the first.

Another bucket of Ukic who reached 11 in the first half, were the last of his team in the half, while Koufos led a 7-0 run to finish the half up 52-31.

Croatia came back from the locker-room set to show a new face.

Ukic and Marko Banic carried their team on an 11-2 run to make it just a 12 point game, 54-42 at the 24 minute mark, but that was as close as they came.

Perperoglou and Antonios Fotsis combined points from close and far range, to make it an 18 point game right before the third buzzer, and a lack of communication between Nikola Vujcic and Zoran Planinic resulted a superfluous turnover Greece used to make it a 20 point game once more.

"I'm very happy with the way we played today in the first half.  It was a direct continuation to the good game we had yesterday," said Jonas Kazlauskas of the Greek bench.

"In the second half we lost some energy, but what made me happy is that we managed to stay focus and didn't lose control of the game."

More than anything else Croatia needed to have a better finish to regain some confidence for the future and win back some pride.

That meant Vujcic stepping up.

The veteran center scored nine points in the last quarter including the three-pointer that cut the margin to only six, 71-65, a bit under two minutes to play, but the Croat hopes didn't survive long.

Spanoulis hit two from the line and after Banic missed a shot inside the arc Spanoulis added a three pointer that sealed the deal.


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