July 10, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - The Serbian men's basketball team, featuring Washington State University rising-senior Nikola Koprivica, advanced to the gold medal match at the World University Games with an 82-56 thumping of Israel, Friday in the tournament's semifinals.
"It's a great, great thing (to advance to the championship game)," Koprivica said. "It means a lot to me and the whole team because we're playing in front of a home crowd. We want to honor these people who come and see us everything day, so it's a great thing."
After handing Israel (6-1) its first loss, Serbia (5-1) will face Russia (6-1) in the gold medal match, Saturday, July 11 at 9 p.m. local time, noon PDT. Russia used a 20-9 fourth quarter to comeback and defeat the United States, 69-68, earlier in the day.
"I was a little bit surprised (that Russia beat the U.S.), because I watched the whole second half and the U.S. was up the whole game, just about, then the last two minutes Russia took over," Koprivica said. "I was surprised because I was thinking we'd play the U.S. tomorrow, but Russia made some big shots and came back in the last quarter. It was great for them, but I feel bad for the U.S."
Playing in his hometown of Belgrade, Koprivica saw limited action, attempting just one shot, a 3-pointer. Vladimir Stimac led the Serbians with 15 points on a perfect performance from the floor, going 6-for-6 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free throw line. He added six rebounds. Nemanja Bjelica added 11 points and eight rebounds, while Milan Macvan and Miroslav Raduljica each had 10 points.
"I think we play really well as a unit," Koprivica said. "We play as a team, we don't care who scores. It's about the team and we try to share the ball, we try to go fast, run up and down, get some quick shots. I think we're doing well, especially if we're winning, that's a good thing to do."
Israel was led by Youval Naimy with 25 points and three steals. Yogev Ohayon had a team-best eight rebounds and added six points.
Israel took control of the first quarter of the game, taking an early 21-20 lead after the opening period. Serbia came out strong on both the offensive and defensive ends, outscoring Israel, 27-15, in the second quarter for a 47-36 halftime lead.
"It took us the first few minutes to get used to their style, they're kind of a difficult team to play," Koprivica said. "They don't have big guys, they're all kind of the same height, smaller guys. You don't really know who's the three, the four, the five, that kind of thing. But as soon as we got used to it, we started playing our game and from that point it was our game."
The defense clamped down even harder in the second half for the Serbians, holding Israel to 11 third-quarter points, taking a 64-47 lead at the end of the third period. Serbia outscored Israel, 18-9, in the fourth quarter for a 26-point, 82-56, victory.
The World University Games conclude Saturday with the gold medal matchup between Serbia and Russia. The USA will take on Israel in the bronze medal match at 6 p.m. local time.
"We played them (Russia) in a tournament before the World University Games started and we beat them in overtime," Koprivica said. "I think it's going to be a tough game, but I hope in front of our home crowd, more than 20,000 people, we're going to get the win."