By Adriana Garcia Senchermes
Turning Point: With Poland trailing 64-62 with 5:24 to go, Serbia outscored their opponents 13-10 en route to victory.
Hero: Nenad Krstic poured in a game-high 18 points, pulled down eight rebounds and blocked two shots to pace the Serbians.
Key Stats: Serbia out-rebounded Poland 38-34.
Serbia opened up a 16-point lead but then had to hold on for dear life and prevailed 77-72 over tournament hosts Poland in the second game of Saturday's Qualifying Round Group F in Lodz.
Duzan Ivkovic's Blues went on top 56-40 midway through the third quarter but never-say-die Poland cut the deficit to 64-62 with 5:24 to go with a spirited effort from their bench.
|Lucasz Koszarek came off the bench to give Poland a lift with 16 points.|
Inspired by the excellent Lukasz Koszarek, Poland cut the gap to just two points and then had a chance to go on top but Koszarek missed from long range and Serbia rebounded.
The team from the Balkans then steadied the ship with four straight points on a pair of free-throws by Milenko Tepic and a dunk by Nenad Krstic.
Poland stayed within striking distance but Serbia held on for their third win at the EuroBasket.
The win improved Serbia to 2-1 in Group F and dropped the Poles to their second consecutive setback following their 87-69 loss to Turkey in the previous round.
"This is big win for us," said Serbia's Uros Tripkovic, who finished with 12 points.
"We played in a full arena, we played in a visiting court and we won so that shows the character of our team. It was an important win for us in this group.
"We didn't panic when they fought back. We just stayed focused on what we had to do and it was the right way to think."
Krstic was immense.
He poured in a game-high 18 points, pulled down eight rebounds and swatted two shots to pace the Serbians.
Milos Teodosic contributed 13 points, including seven in the final quarter.
Marcin Gortat and Koszarek had 16 points apiece for Poland.
More than 10,000 fans roared from start to finish at the Lodz Arena.
"I think that for a young team, that is not so experience, this game was a very big task," said Ivkovic.
"There was a lot of support for the Polish team.I think we controlled the game very well, and I think our defense was at a high level."
The Serbs limited Poland center Macej Lampe, who had gone into the contest as the third top scorer in the tournament with 17.7 points per game, to just two points in 20 minutes on the court while David Logan had just four at the break before finishing with 10.
"Our defense on Lampe and Logan was great," said Ivkovic.
Serbia led 43-36 at half-time, with Poland's Michal Ignerski leading all scorers with 13 points.
Gortat scored two consecutive baskets to cut the deficit 43-40 early in the third quarter but Ivkovic's side replied with an 13-0 run, with Krstic scoring six points in that surge.
Poland scored nine unanswered points as part of a 22-8 run over the next 10 minutes to cut the deficit 64-62 but that was as close as Muli Katzurin's side got.
"I think we didn't play like a team as we needed to," said Katzurin. "I expected us to play better, especially on defense.
"That didn't happen.
"We made unnecessary turnovers and that led to points."
Serbia out-rebounded Poland 38-34.