Croatia got a much needed victory in the first game of the penultimate day here Istanbul. Beating winless Tunisia 84-64.
Bojan Bogdanovic scored 19 points for the victors, while Tunisia’s Macram Ben Romdhame led all scorers, in vain with 23.
Tunisia coach, Adel Tlatli thought there was an element of intimidation in his side. Saying: “ This is our first tournament (World Championship). I am happy, but at times I thought my team were very afraid. Overall, very happy with how we play.”
In a game where Roko-Leni Ukic because of a minor foot problem – the chequed red-and-whites of Croatia made the better start.
The Tunisians, effectively out – started on the back-foot, as Croatia’s duo of Marko Tomas and Ante Tomic were punishing their front-line, as Croatia built a 10-0 lead to kick-off proceedings.
Tunisia though, responded well, hitting back with an 8-0 stretch themselves, without their danger man, Radhouane Slimane – who was sitting on two early fouls.
Croatia though, regained the advantage, as Marko Popovic hit consecutive triples to give his side a 23-12 lead, going into the second period.
The onslaught continued – Zoran Planinic started the second off with a three-pointer. Tunisia had their moments, Hamdi Braa blocked a Boganovic lay-up, then converted the three-point play, with a two handed slam on a fast-break to give the small contingent of Tunisia fans something to cheer about.
Croatia went about their play, and a Bogdanovic bucket, followed by a Loncar three, gave Croatia a commanding 43-23 lead at half-time.
A Macram Ben Romdhame dunk to open the third quarter forced Croatian coach, Josip Vrankovic to call a timeout straight away – but, once they came back onto court, they still had not understood their roles, as Tunisia picked at the lead. Back-to-back dunks from Romdame and Slimane narrowed the deficit to 27-43.
Boganovic though restored Croatia’s 20-point cushion with a triple, mid-way through the third quarter – and Popovic further extended the advantage with five quick points to give his side a 59-35 lead.
The script for Tunisia’s exit was being written up, as an Andric dunk on the fast-break, gave Croatia a commanding 65-40 lead at the end of three.
A mini scuffle between Tomas and Rodham – at the start of the final stanza was the highlight of what was an anti-climax. Both players converted their free-throws at the end of it, as Croatia were coasting, at 72-52.
Buckets were traded, in what turned out to be a comfortable victory.
“It was a good game, because we’ve now qualified for the next round.” Croatia coach, Vrankovic said after the game.
“Before the World Championship, we said that was our plan. It was the first thing we wanted to do.” Vrankovic commented.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Istanbul