Aug. 3, 2008
RIGA, Latvia - France led the entire way as it defeated Serbia, featuring Washington State University men's basketball rising-junior Nikola Koprivica, 83-69, Sunday in the final game of Group D play at the 2008 U20 Men's European Basketball Championship at the Olympic Sports Centre.
Serbia fell to 2-1 to finish second in the group, while France came out as the champion of the group at 3-0. Russia (1-2) and Slovenia (0-3) rounded out Group D.
"Maybe it's better to lose today, then play better later when it's more important," Koprivica said. "This game wasn't all that important, before this game we had already advanced to the next group. We did not shoot well today, so many times we were wide open at the 3-point line and missed the shot. It wasn't normal. Sometimes you have those days where you can't hit anything."
A native of Belgrade, Serbia, Koprivica came off the bench for his personal high of the championship with nine points, adding three assists. Koprivica, the lone captain for the Serbian U20 team, was perfect from 3-point range, making his lone attempt while scoring six of his points in the fourth quarter.
"They beat us in the third quarter, then we came back, but we did not finish it," Koprivica said. "I started the fourth quarter pretty well, I made six quick points. I thought I played pretty well, I played good defense."
France jumped out to an early 17-6 lead at the end of the first quarter. Serbia struck back in the second period, outscoring its opponent, 23-13 to head into halftime down by one point at 30-29. France put up another big quarter in the third, outscoring the Serbians, 30-15, before holding off a comeback in the fourth in which Serbia outscored the French, 25-23.
"We did not shoot well and they are a good team," Koprivica said. "In the end we came close, we came within six points in the fourth quarter, but they hit some shots right over us. In the end it was a 14 point loss, but it was much closer in the game."
Seven players scored eight or more points for Serbia, led by Dusan Katnic and Milan Macvan with 11 points apiece. France was led by Abdoulaye Mbaye with 21 points, while Ludovic Vaty added 18.
The top three teams in each of the four groups advance to Groups E and F, while the bottom team from each group drops to Group G to compete for 13th-16th place. Serbia moves onto Group F with former Group C teams Montenegro (first, 3-0), Spain (second, 2-1) and Latvia (third, 1-2) and fellow-Group D teams France (first, 3-0) and Russia (third, 1-2).
All teams will take Monday, Aug. 4 off. Serbia will face Spain Tuesday, Aug. 5, followed by meetings with Montenegro, Wednesday, Aug. 6 and Latvia, Thursday, Aug. 7. The teams will take Friday, Aug. 8 off, before bracket play Aug. 9-10.
"Having tomorrow off will be good for us to get some rest and talk about our game and everything," Koprivica said. "The day after tomorrow we are playing against Spain, I think we're a better team than Spain is. I think our group (Group D) was the best group in the whole championship. I hope and I think we can advance to the semifinals."