Marin Maric exploded for Croatia with a 22-point, 17-rebound double-double
Croatia came back from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime and finally escape 80-76 winners over Israel in the first game for both sides in Group F of the U20 European Championship.
Turning Point: Croatia, who had trailed by double digits quite consistently since late in the first quarter, outscored Israel 17-4 during a six-minute stretch midway through the fourth frame to turn a 65-51 deficit into a 70-69 lead, before the end of regulation found the two teams tied at 72. Paolo Marinelli, with two free throws 11 seconds from the end of overtime sealed Croatia's win as Israel misfired twice on their last possession.
Game Hero: Up until the mid-point of the third quarter it appeared impossible that anyone could steal the spotlight from Israel's Adam Ariel, who had already nailed seven consecutive triples en route to his game-high 28 points. Marin Maric had only collected four points up to that point but, as it turned out, also had a never-say-die attitude. The Croatian big man inspired his team's comeback and finished with a fantastic double-double of 22 points and 17 rebounds.
Stats Don't Lie: Croatia shot only 32.3% from the floor during the first half, while Israel saw the basket like a barrel from downtown and had converted 46.4% of their shots from the floor. Croatia's field goal percentage raised to over 40% by the end of regulation and they finished on 39.4% after overtime, while Israel's dropped to 36.6% by the end of the encounter.
The Bottom Line: The two teams entered Group F tied at 1-1 and while the result is far from catastrophic for Israel, it does mean that Croatia now hold the upper hand should a two-way tie between these two teams occur at the end of the Second Round.