July 11, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - Washington State University men's basketball rising-senior Nikola Koprivica and his Serbian team captured the gold medal at the World University Games as Serbia defeated Russia, 73-51, Saturday in Koprivica's hometown of Belgrade. The game was a home game for Serbia, playing in front of a crowd of nearly 22,000 people.
"It was crazy (after the game)," Koprivica said. "First of all, we went back to the locker room, celebrated a little bit..everyone's cheering, everyone's yelling. After that we went out on the court and had a celebration, we got our medals and all of that. Afterwards everyone was waiting for us, no one left. Having 22,000 people wait for you to get your medal, chanting your name...it was awesome."
Serbia finished the tournament with a 6-1 record, while Russia, who upset the United States Friday, went 6-2 in tournament play. In the bronze medal match, the U.S. (6-1) defeated Israel (6-2), 91-80. In the last World University Games in 2007 in Bangkok, Thailand, Serbia took home the silver, falling to Lithuania in the gold medal match.
Nemanja Protic led Serbia with 19 points, while Marko Simonvic added 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting from the field. Russia was led by Alexey Kotishevkiy with 13 points, while Euvgeniy Voronov added 12 points and Nikita Shabalkin chipped in 11 points.
"We played really, really intense," Koprivica said. "We played a lot of people. I think they couldn't make some shots and we played really good defense, contested every shot...it was great defense. I think they got tired, they don't play a lot of people. Today I thought I saw that they were fatigued and they were tired, but that's why we were playing a lot of people so we could stay fresh and keep putting pressure on people and win games."
Serbia shot 49 percent from the field, while holding Russia to 28 percent shooting. Serbia's defense proved to be strong early, holding Russia to just 11 first quarter points for an early 22-11 lead. Although they were outscored 20-17 in the second quarter, the Serbians held a 39-31 halftime lead.
"We started off really, really well," Koprivica said. "We prepared really well and we did really good scouting. I think we just came out and played more than 100 percent in front of a home crowd. Everyone was pumped up, it was our game."
Serbia's defense again buckled down in the third quarter, allowing just 10 Russian points, extending its lead to 14 points at 55-41. Once again Russia only scored 10 points in the fourth and final quarter, as the Serbians went on to a 22-point, 73-51 victory.