Turning Point: France had reeled off seven straight points to cut a 12-point Serbia lead to five at 50-45 when Nemanja Nedovic nailed the first of two three-pointers in the final three minutes of the third quarter in helping push the lead back to 60-51 after three periods.
Game Hero: Nenad Krstic collected 19 points as well as four rebounds and four assists for the winning Serbs.
Stats Don't Lie: Serbia shot 50% from the field while holding the number one offence in the competition to 65 points and 38.7% shooting, allowing them to survive making just 10-of-21 free throws (47.6%).
|Nenad Krstic was unstoppable in the paint, scoring a game-high 19 points|
Serbia secured the top spot in Group E of EuroBasket 2013 after knocking off France 77-65. Finishing behind Serbia were Lithuania in second spot in the group, followed by France and Ukraine.
"I think that my team absolutely deserved this victory. We won all quarters. We played for the first time without Markovic. I didn't want to say let's win for him, but I did say, ‘Let's go fight like Markovic.' Our victory is very pure. For our young players this gives them more confidence," said Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic.
"We were more a team than ever. We did a good job playing together and playing good defence. We will be prepared for the quarter-finals," said Serbian center Vladimir Stimac, who collected eight points and six rebounds off the bench.
France took third place in the group by finishing at 3-2. Nicolas Batum, Nando De Colo, Alexis Ajinca and Boris Diaw all scored 12 points while Tony Parker had 10 points.
"Serbia were more aggressive than us. They put pressure on us and just played good inside. We tried to find a way to stop him but couldn't," said Batum.
France led 5-2 early but Ajinca had problems containing Krstic, who scored 10 points in the first quarter in building a 17-11 Serbia lead. Diaw scored two baskets before De Colo's buzzer-beating score to bring France to within 19-17 after one quarter.
Stimac came into to give Krstic a rest and helped Serbia stay close as France were up 29-26 with about four minutes remaining in the first half. Krstic came back and Serbia also got points off the bench from Djordje Gagic in going on a 12-2 run over the final 3:52 minutes for a 38-31 lead at the break.
Serbia continued to work hard defensively and Bogdanovic hit some big shots in helping the young team pull ahead by 12 points, 50-38. France punched back with five free throws and a Parker layup to make it 50-45, but Nedovic nailed two triples and Bjelica threw back in a Krstic miss at the third quarter buzzer for a 60-51 Serbia advantage.
Bogdanovic kept up his superb game, starting the fourth quarter with a three-point play and adding a three-pointer in extending the lead to 14 points, 70-56. France crept back closer, bringing the deficit back to 72-65. But Nedovic knocked down a huge three-ball and then Ajinca missed two foul shots on the ensuing possession and France's comeback had lost its life.