July 6, 2009
BELGRADE, Serbia - Washington State University men's basketball's Nikola Koprivica and Serbia (3-0) remained undefeated at the World University Games with an 82-70 victory over Finland (1-2), Monday in Koprivica's hometown of Belgrade.
Koprivica didn't attempt any field goals, but drained both of his free throw attempts for two points. The 6-foot-6 guard added two assists and two rebounds in Serbia's victory.
"I think I've played well," Koprivica said. "I've been consistent defensively, offensively I've had good moments, a lot of assists. We've definitely played team basketball. It doesn't matter who scores, it's a national team. It's more about the team than individuals and I think we've played great as a team".
Serbia is now 2-0 in Group I, as it has a win over Greece when both teams were members of Group A. The Serbians are tied with USA in Group I, as the two will meet for the group's top seed, July 7 at 8 p.m. local time (11 a.m. PDT) in Belgrade Arena. Serbia defeated the USA, 98-82, June 28 in an exhibition game in preparation for the World University Games.
"It's going to be a tough matchup (against the USA)," Koprivica said. "We did beat them in a game by like 15 or 20, but it doesn't mean anything. They're a really good team and we have to play our best if we want to beat them. It's going to be exciting, it's going to be a big crowd and I'm excited to play against those guys."
The hometown team, Serbia's well-rounded scoring attack was led by Nemania Bjelica, Miroslav Raduljica and Ivan Paunicwith 13 points apiece. Raduljica led the team with nine rebounds, while Milan Macvan added eight boards. Vesa Makalaine led Finland with 21 points and seven rebounds, while Ville Maklaine added 12 points.
"I think it's (playing in Belgrade) a good advantage for us because it feels good when you have a few thousand people behind you, supporting you every good move you make, every good stop, every point, you get applause," Koprivica said. "The adrenaline and everything...it feels great playing in front of a home crowd because they're really loud and it makes a great atmosphere."
The Serbian team opened up the game strong, outscoring the Finns, 20-9 in the opening period. Although it was outscored, 23-21 in the second period, Serbia held a 41-32 halftime lead. Again in the third quarter Serbia came out strong with a 27-13 advantage, for a 68-45 advantage. Despite a 14-point fourth quarter, the hometown team held on for the 82-70 victory. Serbia outrebounded Finland, 43-29, with 13 boards coming on the offensive end.
"Usually we start the first quarter and the second half with a lot of pressure on teams, so we try and get some leads, then we can just maintain the lead and finish the game," Koprivica said. "We played a lot of guys the first quarter and third quarter so we could have constant pressure and I think that worked really well for us."
After the Serbians take on the Americans Tuesday, July 7, the tournament quarterfinals begin July 9. The first place team in Group I will take on second place in Group L, while the second place team in Group I takes on the Group L winner.