Croatia sealed their spot in the last eight of Eurobasket thanks to a third quarter onslaught against Italy based on a simple message during the half-time team talk, which was to not be nervous.
That was the view of Luka Zoric, whose seven points and eight rebounds was the key towards the team’s 76-68 success, as a 26-9 third quarter, which went in their favour, highlighted by the 10-0 run sealed the deal.
What did Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa say to his players in the locker room at half-time?
“He told us that we don’t need to be nervous and that we must play better defence then we played,” Zoric said.
“That’s it. Go on the court to the maximum, don’t be nervous. He put some details, for offence, for defence and that’s it.”
Those minor details were effective enough for a fightback and for the Croats to advance.
And no doubt it was a completely different Croatia side that turned up in the first half where they trailed 36-31 and looked out of sorts. Italy, up until the beginning of the second round were the team of the tournament – a perfect 5-0 – and needing just one win from their three games at the Stozice to advance. They were playing fantastic team basketball, led by Luigi Datome, who top-scored with 28 points.
Croatia though rallied back thanks to a fantastic third quarter showing, and they have no doubt been a better side to the one that crashed out in the first round in Lithuania, two years ago. The team bond is great, and they’ve made to the quarter-finals through working together and working hard.
“We won this game [against Italy] with defence, with our chemistry and we was more of a team than Italy. That’s it,” Croatia coach Jasmin Respesa said briefly.
For Italy, thanks to Slovenia’s win over Greece have qualified for the quarter-finals of Eurobasket as they prepare for Spain on Monday. The Eurobasket holders’ place not secured yet. They need to win to book their spot.
“We intend to not lose any confidence in ourselves,” Datome told FIBA’s Jeff Taylor at the post-game press conference. “We’re still over-achieving [in this] Eurobasket.”