Defending champions Spain used a stingy 2nd half 2-3 zone defense, to defeat tough Greek squad 80-72 in their Eight-Final match-up in Instanbul. Juan Carlos Navarro led the Spaniards with 22 points, but last nights victory was truly a team effort. It amazes me that Spain is still in this tournament, who are adjusting well to the loss of PG Jose Calderon.
Felipe Reyes and Fran Vasquez were huge off the bench, combining for 12 points and 17 rebounds off the bench. With Greece trailing 58-57 with 5:48 to play Rudy Fernandez scored 5 points during a 9-0 run that put Spain ahead for the remainder of the game. Greece could not solve the Spanish 2-3 zone in the second-half and Marc Gasol was dominated the painted area.
Rudy Fernandez (Spain): “It’s never easy to play against Greece. They make you work hard for the victory. We knew we needed to step up our game if we wanted to continue in the tournament and I think we did that today. We stepped up our defense, showed concentration from start to finish and we got the job done. I think we have taken a step forward with respect to our previous performances and now we have to start thinking about Serbia.”
Spain continued their recent dominance over Greece. They beat them in the Final of the World Championship in 2006 and in the Semi-Finals of EuroBasket 2007. They overcame Greece in the Preliminary at the Olympics in 2008 and again defeated them last year in the Semi-Finals in Poland. [via FIBA.com]
Serbia-Croatia game recap after the jump…
In the other Eight-Final, Aleksander Rasic made a free-throw with a second left to give Serbia a 73-72 victory over archival Croatia. Trailing by as many as 7 in the final minutes, Croatia made a roaring comeback behind the inspired play of Marko Popovic and Marko Banic. With the game tied and time running out, Croatia committed a silly foul with one second to go, giving Serbia two free-throws to win the game. Rasic made the first and missed the second, expiring the clock. Popovic scored 21 points for Croatia, including 10 in the final quarter. Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 16 points.
Nenad Krstic (Serbia): “It was a really tough game, Croatia fought hard to win so much but we fought and got the victory. As everybody sees there is no easy win or weaker team. We must play seriously every game and never give up. I was not expecting an easy game before the match because we had only one day off and our trip made us tired. We have reached the quarter finals and we have more days off before the next match. I do not know who will be our rival but we will be ready for the quarter final match.”
Serbia has been one of this tournaments top teams, and legendary coach Dusan Ivkovic will have no problem motivating his squad for their quarterfinal match-up with Spain on Wednesday. I expect the Serbs to beat Spain, but PG Milos Teodosic will have to play smarter and stop turning the ball over,showing the form that makes him one of Europe’s most feared play-makers. [via Fiba.com]