Day 2 Men: SCG 74 - ITA 72
Serbia & Montenegro edge out Italy in thriller
ATHENS (Olympics) - Another Olympic game, another dramatic flourish in Athens.
In a men's tournament which is shaping up to be one of the best ever at the Summer Games, Serbia & Montenegro withstood a furious Italian fightback in the final two minutes to win 74-72 and get their campaign back on track after Saturday's last-second defeat to Argentina.
Zeljko Obradovic had to fret on the sidelines in the final minute again, though, because his team had blown two large leads in the second half and allowed Italy to draw level.
It was a frantic ending, just like two days ago when Emanuel Ginobili's last-second, off-balance lay-up gave Argentina a one-point victory over
the team from the Balkans.
A few Lega A team-mates at Skipper Bologna - Serbia & Montenegro's Milos Vujanic and Italy's Gianluca Basile and Gianmarco Pozzecco - were pivotal in this one.
After Vujanic was fouled by Pozzecco and made two free throws with 5.8 seconds remaining to put Obradovic's team in front, Italy inbounded the
ball to Basile who raced up the court.
Basile didn't spot any open team-mates and found himself on the right baseline, 15 feet from the basket with the final seconds ticking away.
Falling back, he shot over the defenders only for the ball to bounce off the rim.
Serbia & Montenegro's players, coaches and fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief.
That Obradovic has suffered through two games is unusual because his teams are renowned for being able to throw a knockout punch.
Igor Rakocevic's basket with 3:39 in the third quarter gave them a 13-point advantage - their biggest of the game.
Italy chipped away and remained close, but with 3:58 left in the game, Dejan Bodiroga's basket the Serbo-Montenegrins' a 10-point lead.
One of the culprits in their defeat to Argentina was Dejan Tomasevic, who missed two late free throws.
This contest was eerily similar because Tomasevic, with the game tied at 70-70, was fouled 45 seconds from the end by Giacomo Galanda.
The veteran Pamesa Valencia forward composed himself and, with the Italian fans in attendance making a lot of noise in the Hellinikon Indoor Arena, he calmly sank both for a 72-70 lead.
Italy went to other end but Massimo Bulleri missed a lay-up and Bodiroga rebounded. However, the normally reliable captain Bodiroga had possession stolen from him by Basile as he tried to bring the ball up the floor and Basile drove in uncontested for the game-tying basket.
Serbia & Montenegro brought the ball back up the court and with time winding down, Basile's Skipper Bologna team-mate Vujanic knifed into the
lane and put up his shot.
The ball hit the front and back of the rim but stayed out.
Vujanic was hit on the arm while shooting by Pozzecco, though, and was awarded the two free throws which ultimately decided the outcome.
Serbia & Montenegro are now level in the Group A standings with Italy, who escaped against New Zealand 71-69 in their first game.
Peja Stojakovic hasn't made the journey to Athens but a scorer is emerging in the figure of Rakocevic.
He was a scintillating seven of 10 from the field, including three of four from three-point land and finished with a game-high 19 points.
Bulleri, injured for much of the 2003-4 campaign for Benetton Treviso, is back to fitness and it showed in this contest for he spearheaded the
Italian attack with 15 points on five of 11 shooting and also had two steals.
Free throws continue to be a problem for Serbia & Montenegro.
They were 14 of 23 for a miserly 61%, compared to Italy's eight of nine for 89%.
Serbia & Montenegro shot well from long range, making 10 of 19 for 59% while Italy were eight of 18 (44%).
|Press conference quotes:|
On the game:
"It was very difficult game, exactly like the battle against Argentina two days ago. We knew Italy very well and they know us, so everything that happened during the game was expected. Actually, we compete in a very tough Group, so all the rest of the games will be very tough."
Vladimir RADMANOVIC (SCG)
On the first win of Serbia & Montenegro:
"After our loss to Argentina in the opening game, the match against Italy was a must win game. During the last quarter, we lost our concentration and Italy came back, but fortunately we managed to win this game and that makes us happy. Hopefully, we will manage to improve some things in our games and play even better basketball."
Carlo RECALCATI (ITA) - Coach
On the efforts of his players:
"I am very satisfied from my team's effort. If we go on like this, we have really good chances for something good here. We faced Serbia & Montenegro, a perfect team with good coach and very talented players. In fact, Igor RACOCEVIC is one of the most interesting players in the whole tournament so far."
On Gianluca BASILE's missed shot in the last second:
"I didn't want to call a time out, in order not to let our opponents organise their defense. I believe in my players' skills and I let them do what they have done in the past with great success. Both BASILE and Massimo BULLERI like to take the final shot. BASILE missed and we lost the game, but I think that the last shot was not the point. In many similar situations, he has made it."
Roberto CHIACIG (ITA)
On the game against the world champions (Serbia & Montenegro) and the rest of the tournament:
"It was a very difficult game for us, since we faced the world champions. Both teams fought with all their strength and I think we had the possibility to win the game. If we compete with the same intensity, we will be able to succeed our goals. All that matters is to believe in it and never give up fighting."
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens