Late Croatia surge denies Ukraine
MILAN (Italy) - Croatia held off Ukraine 90-85 as both teams ended with 3-2 records at the close of their play in Group C at FIBA EuroBasket 2022.
Breaking open a 21-21 tie at the close of the opening period, a three from Mario Hezonja ignited a 12-0 run for Croatia before a triple from Denys Lukashov capped a run of eight unanswered points that cut Ukraine’s deficit to 45-42 at half-time.
The momentum shifted back and forth, with three lead changes in the third, and Ukraine – who were paced by 21 points from Volodymyr Herun - edged ahead 73-69 early in the fourth.
But during a spell in which both teams converted six successive scores on three-pointers, it fell to Krunoslav Simon to spark a decisive burst to secure victory, even if Croatia fell short of the margin of 8 points needed to guarantee second place in their pool.
Turning Point: Simon, Bojan Bogdanovic and Ivan Ramljak converted a trio of threes in succession amid a late 11-0 run that took Croatia 86-79 clear.
TCL Player of the Game: Bogdanovic had 27 points on 8-for-16 shooting, plus 7 rebounds, including a three that gave his team the lead for good with 4:19 remaining. Bogdanovic has scored 20+ points in 12 different games in the EuroBasket and since his debut in 2011 only three players have more such games than him (Pau Gasol 15, Goran Dragic and Tony Parker 13 each).
Stats Don’t Lie: Croatia grabbed 21 points off 13 Ukraine turnovers, three of which came inside the closing three minutes. Croatia also scored 13 shots from behind the arc in today's game, a joint-high for them in a EuroBasket fixture, after also making that many shots against Czech Republic in 2007 and Germany in 1997.
Bottom Line: The finishing positions of both teams between 2nd and 3rd – and seeding for the Last 16 bracket - will be determined following Italy’s meeting with Great Britain later.
“Rest is going to help everybody. You can see the injured players. Several teams have players injured. You have two days now for recovery and small practices. Plus talking and preparing. doing good scouting, it’s going to help us a lot, for sure.“ - Croatia head coach Damir Mulaomerovic
“We had some struggles. But we got better. Now we have two days off and we can learn from this group and this stage … of course, we’re aiming for the highest place possible.” – Croatia forward Karlo Matkovic
“We’re pretty pleased with how we played, the kind of game we showed and how we’ve been playing. It’s just we have those 2-3 minutes at the start of the third quarter when we kind of lose focus. Two minutes can be a 6-8 point turnaround, it’s about being consistent throughout the whole game. But for the most part, we’re pretty happy with how we’re playing. – Ukraine guard Bogdan Bliznyuk