BELGRADE (Serbia) – Serbia made their faithful wait nervously until the latest possible moment, but in the end the European powerhouse fought past Great Britain to grab the final ticket to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023.
The hosts took care of business in their final game of the European Qualifiers with a 101-83 victory in Belgrade to reach the World Cup for the fifth straight time. Serbia showed their class against Great Britain, taking over the game in the third quarter.
“This was an important victory for us, without a question,” said Serbia head coach Svetislav Pesic.
“The saying goes: You never win the game before the game. And it was difficult without playing defense, and without finding the balance between defense and offense it’s difficult to control your destiny.”
He continued: “With this balance you can win something.”
The European Qualifiers campaign was quite rocky for the 2014 World Cup runners-up. Serbia lost two games to Belgium in the First Round, which put them in a hole with a 1-3 record going into the Second Round.
Svetislav Pesic’s team reeled off four straight victories in the August 2022 and November 2022 windows but then missed a chance to finish the deal in Greece on Friday, giving up a 13-point lead before losing 97-92 in Athens.
Against Great Britain, Serbia raced away early on with a 14-2 run to lead 14-5, but their opponents continued to stick with it. Quinn Ellis hit a triple at the end of the first quarter to make it 28-20.
The offense dried up for the Serbs and allowed the underdogs to cut the gap to 31-29. Great Britain even knotted the game at 39-39, but Serbia responded with seven straight points to lead 46-41 at the break.
Great Britain hit the first five points of the second half to even the game again and it was 50-49. Serbia finally were able to get multiple easy baskets and and streaked away with an 13-2 spurt for a 63-51 advantage. The guests got within eight points but it was 74-60 going into the final quarter and Serbia did not let up; pushed the margin to 20 points – 82-62 with 8 minutes to play – and it was never close again.
“In the second half we started to play much better defense and we waited for our five minutes to go ahead by 20 points. And in the end we have a good win and we are going to the World Cup,” said Serbian captain Marko Jagodic-Kuridza.
Aleksa Avramovic paced Serbia with 22 points while Luka Mitrovic scored 15 points, Ognjen Dobric had 14 points and Marko Guduric chipped in 13 points and 6 assists.