July 7, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - Washington State University men's basketball's Nikola Koprivica and Serbia (3-1) suffered their first loss at the World University Games, falling 68-66 to the United States (4-0), Tuesday in the final game of Group I action in Koprivica's hometown of Belgrade.
Koprivica finished with two points, making his first field goal of the game. He was 1-for-3 from the field and had two rebounds in eight minutes of action.
"I did well," Koprivica said. "I played nearly 10 minutes or so, scored one basket and had a couple missed shots. But overall, had a few rebounds, good defense. I think I played well."
USA clinched the No. 1 seed in Group I, while Serbia gets the No. 2 seed in the group as the teams move on to the quarterfinals. Serbia will take on Group L winner Turkey (4-0) on Thursday, July 9 at 3 p.m. local time (6 a.m. PDT). Serbia could possibly meet up with the Americans in the championship game which is set for July 11. Also moving on the quarterfinals are Lithuania (5-0) and Germany (2-2) from Group J, Israel (5-0) and Russia (4-1) from Group K and Bulgaria (3-1) from Group L.
"This game didn't mean a lot because both us and the U.S. are in the quarterfinals, so it was just like who was going to be in what group," Koprivica said. "But it didn't mean too much."
The game was close throughout, neither team led by more than six points. Serbia had a chance to win the game at the end with a last second shot, but it didn't fall.
"It was a great game," Koprivica said. "We played well, they played well. It was a tough game, I don't think anyone was up by more than five or six the whole game. It was kind of an equal game, anyone could have one. They had more luck than we did in the end. We had a shot at the end to win it, but we missed."
The well-balanced Serbian attack was led by Ivan Paunic with 14 points, Milan Macvan and Miroslav Raduljica with 13 points apiece and Marko Simonvic with 11 points. Raduljica had a double-double adding 10 rebounds. Starter Marko Keselj didn't play due to a sprained ankle he suffered against Finland on Monday.
The U.S. was led by Talor Battle with 17 points. Da'Sean Butler added 12 points and five rebounds. Trevor Booker had a team-high six rebounds and added four points and two blocked shots.
Serbia, playing in front of a hometown crowd, battled the United States in an arena filled with 14,000 fans.
"The atmosphere was awesome," Koprivica said. "I think there were about 15,000 people. It was great, I hope if we meet in the finals there's going to be even more. It's a huge gym, so I hope if we meet in the final, there will 23,000 people or so. I'm looking forward to it."
After trailing by three, 18-15, at the end of the first quarter, the USA took a one-point, 37-36, lead at halftime on a shot at the buzzer. The two teams were even in the third quarter, as the U.S. escaped with a one-point lead heading into the fourth period. In the low-scoring fourth quarter, the U.S. outscored Serbia 11-10 for the two-point, 68-66, victory.
Serbia now begins tournament action with quarterfinal play against Turkey Thursday. A win would put Serbia in the semifinals against the winner of the Israel-Germany game on Friday, July 10. The championship game will take place Saturday, July 11.