Turning Point: Tyrese Rice scored seven straight points to open the fourth and propel Montenegro to a 12-point lead. A couple of Serbian threes helped reduce that margin to four until Milko Bjelica hit the sealing three with under 20 seconds remaining.
Game Hero: In a true team effort featuring nine guys to score five or more points, Montenegro's game hero goes to Rice for his momentum shifting fourth quarter and team-high 12 points.
Stats Don't Lie: Montenegro took full advantage of the absence of Nenad Krstic, dominating the points in the paint tally 52-38.
|Tyrese Rice scored seven points on the run to begin the fourth quarter and give his team the edge they needed|
Montenegro took out a hard-fought 83-76 win against a cautious Serbia in Jesenice on Monday night, their second win after three straight losses.
Serbia took an early lead behind 11 points from Rasko Katic, but a 10-2 run stretching from the final minute of the opening term into the second quarter enabled Montenegro to tie the game at 27 apiece.
Neither side could buy a basket from outside, but both shot over 70% inside the arc in a close second quarter until Sead Sehovic led a bench attack to give Serbia a slight advantage after 20 minutes.
An exciting third period saw the lead change six times, but the highlight came when Danilo Andjusic passed the ball off the back of the man guarding him on the baseline of an inbounds pass to waltz into a clever open layup.
Rice opened the fourth quarter on fire and was instrumental in Montenegro going ahead by a game-high margin of 12, but the Montenegrin fans had to endure a nervous five minutes as the Serbians fought back and the score hovered around the five-point margin until the final minute.
Bogdanovic made a free throw to cut the lead to four in the final 40 seconds, but Milko Bjelica finished off Montenegro's second win with a three with 16 seconds remaining.
"We had unlucky losses and it was really important for us for the continuation of all our seasons and to show everybody there that we deserve to go to the Second Round," said point guard Nikola Ivanovic.
"Unfortunately we weren't able to do that, but we are really happy we finished this one against the top team in our group.
"I want to thank everyone that came here and supported us for all five games and everybody back home that were with us."
Serbia rested veterans Nenad Krstic and Stefan Markovic, leaving just Nemanja Bjelica as the only active player with EuroBasket experience. Coach Dusan Ivkovic thanked the fans for understanding the tactical approach.
"I want to thank our fans for their support and also apologise to them that we only played with 10 players," he said.
"After Nenad Krstic played 34 minutes last night, and Stefan Markovic with 33 [minutes], they needed to rest. Markovic especially as he is injured, Krstic is OK."
Bjelica, Bojan Dubljevic and Aleksa Popovic combined with Rice to all score in double figures.
Bogdan Bogdanovic played a supporting role to Katic, scoring 14 points while grabbing four rebounds and handing out four assists.