The battle for the top of Group C was won by Serbia, who fought for an 85-76 win against hosts Spain in front of a passionate crowd of supporters.
You could tell from the intensity on the court and in the stands that this was the game of the tournament so far, and both teams fought in a close and fast paced encounter in which the Serbians just had the edge mentally over their hosts.
Ricky Rubio stood out for Spain more than he had done in the previous games, scoring 25 points.
|Ricky Rubio did all he could for Spain, scoring 25 points and grabbing eight rebounds.|
But despite some brave play from his teammates it wasn’t enough to stop a Serbia side who were led excellently by star Milan Macvan with a double-double of 19 points and 18 rebounds and Stefan Stojacic with 24 points and 10 boards.
In a nervous start for both sides it took Spain until the fourth minute of the game to get on the scoreboard.
Once up and running Luis Guil’s men went on a 5-0 run to take an early lead, which they were unable to build on as the more physical Serbian side battled back to keep the game close.
Both sides enjoyed periods of domination as the lead swung back and forth.
Serbia just took the edge in the first quarter as the physical play of Serbia’s big men seemed to knock Spain out of their stride.
Macvan wrestled his way to 10 points and Stojacic notched up 13 early on as he hit three consecutive three point tries for Serbia to take a lead of 23-20 into the second quarter.
Spain’s usual suspects of Rubio, Sergio De La Fuente, Pere Tomas and Pablo Aguilar were doing everything they could to make sure the game stayed a contest, De La Fuente hitting a two point shot on the buzzer to keep the score to within three points at the first break.
In the second quarter Rubio showed great vision in the full court to set up a number of breaks which weren’t being converted often enough to give Spain the lead they were looking for.
At the same time Stojacic, Macvan and now Dusan Katnic were still scoring freely as the game flowed from end to end and Serbia maintained a slender 41-39 lead going into the break.
The lead stayed with them in the third quarter due in large part to Spain’s inability to score
from three point range, whilst Stojacic continued to score well from downtown.
|Mihai Urichianu had eight points and 11 rebounds for Romania.|
It was his triple shot on the buzzer that kept his side 61-58 in front going into the decisive quarter.
Tensions were high, and Rubio looked a little frustrated on a number of occasions as Spain’s smooth flowing play of previous games wasn’t coming as easily as it had.
Despite a brave showing from the young DKV Joventut star, which included an impressive lay-up shot as he fell to the floor, the gap just couldn’t be closed.
Spain missed a number of chances in the last minute, leaving Ivan Smiljanic to convert a three-pointer at the death to make the score a little more emphatic.
“I’m so proud of my players”, said Serbia coach Dejan Mijatovic after the game.
“Spain is the first favourite, but we played with big heart and character against an excellent side. Maybe we too are favourites now”.
In the other game in Group C Russia took the last qualifying round spot after overcoming Romania 63-40 in a rather low key game.
Russia dominated from the off while Romania looked set for yet another heavy defeat, as the score reached 24-3 in Russia’s favour with just under a minute left in the first quarter.
Despite a more spirited effort for the remainder of the game it was a deficit that the Romania’s couldn’t overturn, as they remained around 20 points behind throughout.
Mihai Urichianu had another good game for the Romanians despite defeat, scoring eight points and taking 11 rebounds.
Putting up the biggest numbers for Russia were Valentin Novikov for Russia with 17 points and Vladimir Filippov with nine points and 12 rebounds.