04 - 09
July 2016
9 Dario Saric (CRO)
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Superb Saric, Croatia dig deep

TURIN (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - Dario Saric has served notice this week that he's now one of the best players in international basketball with one terrific performance after another for Croatia at the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Turin.

A steady, dominating power forward, Saric had 11 points and 10 rebounds in a 67-60 defeat to Italy on Tuesday and also 16 points and 8 rebounds in Croatia's other big game, a 66-61 win over Greece in Friday's Semi-Final. Perhaps more impressive was his defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. The 'Greek Freak' had just 9 points on 3-of-14 shooting.

Croatia had to remain tough mentally on Friday because after opening up a 24-point advantage over Greece, their opponents stormed back to take the lead.

Saric and his teammates dug in on defense, though, and prevailed to set up a re-match with Italy on Saturday. The 22-year-old Saric, who will have to be at his best if Croatia are to beat the Italians and reach Rio, spoke to FIBA.com.

FIBA.com: That was a crazy game against Greece.
Saric: I said before the start of this game, after we beat Tunisia, that this would be a special game, a war, so much contact in the paint. We started very good but because we don't have a big rotation and that helped them come back at the beginning of the third quarter. But we found some power, the right mentality and showed we are a team with a good character and we deserve this win.

FIBA.com: How do you explain the comeback by Greece?
Saric: The coach says that sometimes a big lead at the beginning of the game is hard for the players. You shoot every ball and you score. And then, the percentages start to go down. It can be hard to play. But we showed character in the last quarter and this team deserved this win.

FIBA.com: Antetokounmpo had seemed unstoppable for Greece in their wins over Iran and Mexico but you shut him down. How did you prepare to face him?
Saric: One day before the game, I studied Antetokounmpo and I knew it would be a hard job because he's a guy who will be an All-Star next year in the NBA and you must always have some medicine for everybody. I found out how he goes to his left and after that, he spins to the right side and I was waiting for that. I think we found the medicine to stop him, and (Giannis) Bourousis, who played unbelievable this year (for Laboral Kutxa).

FIBA.com: Now it's Italy again. This has all the makings of an amazing game.
Saric: I think we [Croatia and Italy] will score fewer points than in the first game. We'll try to fight, try to beat them, make it a battle in the paint and that's how we must play.