Aug. 7, 2008
RIGA, Latvia - Washington State University men's basketball rising-junior, Nikola Koprivica, and his Serbian team advanced to the semifinals at the 2008 U20 European Basketball Championship with a 97-90 victory over Latvia, Thursday.
"It was a tough game because they're the host team and there was a lot of pressure on us to win," Koprivica said. "It was a full gym, everyone was cheering for Latvia, but our guys opened with a pretty good game. I think this was one of the best all-around games we've played in this championship."
Serbia finished Group F play with a 4-1 record, including three-straight wins. Serbia advances as the champion from Group F and will play Turkey, who finished second in Group E, a semifinal matchup Saturday. Spain finished tied with Montenegro and France for second in the group, but advances to the semis to face Group E champion Lithuania. Serbia is now guaranteed to place anywhere from first to fourth.
"Saturday we play Turkey," Koprivica said. "I think that our group was stronger than the other group. I didn't see Turkey that much, but from what I saw they don't have much height, so I think we can take advantage with our big guys."
A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Koprivica came off the bench to score seven points and dish out an assist in 15 minutes of action. Koprivica, the lone captain of the team, shot 1-for-3 from 3-point range and was a perfect 2-for-2 from the free throw line.
Serbia jumped out to a quick 12-0 lead with four and a half minutes remaining in the first quarter of action, and continued to hold a double-digit lead the majority of the first half. Latvia pulled within five points twice, which began with a 10-0 run from the seven to five minute marks in the second quarter. Serbia held a 46-37 advantage at the half. The Serbians stretched their lead in the second half and went on to a 27-point victory.
"We played pretty well today, especially defensively," Koprivica said. "Latvia is a team that has had some high scores in the championship, but it didn't score in the first six or seven minutes of today's game. Latvia hit some crazy shots, but we had everything under control. We played pretty well."
Four teams have a shot at the title (Serbia, Turkey, Lithuania and Spain) as each will play in the semifinals Saturday, Aug. 9. The winners of the games between Serbia and Turkey and Lithuania and Spain will meet in the championship game Sunday, Aug. 10.