Israel’s hopes of qualifying for EuroBasket 2013 received a massive boost on
Tuesday night when the national team recorded an extremely impressive 89-76
victory over Serbia at Nokia Arena to improve to 3- 2 in Group A.
blue-and-white was licking its wounds after beginning the 10-game campaign with
two consecutive defeats, but it rebounded with two straight road wins over the
weak Iceland and Slovakia and made a real statement on Tuesday with an emphatic
victory over what was regarded as the strongest side in the group.
surged to a double-digit lead in the first quarter and remained in control until
the final buzzer, playing superbly on offense and even out-rebounding the vastly
taller Serbs (40-35).
As important as Tuesday’s win was, Israel faces
another make-or-break showdown on Thursday when it hosts Montenegro.
Montenegrins bring a perfect 5- 0 record to the game and beat Israel 75-69 when
the teams met in their first encounter of the campaign.
“You have to
bring something extra to a game like this,” said Israel coach Arik
“We saw things tonight which we have not seen in training. To
beat a team like Serbia you have to play this way.
“We have one big
blemish in our campaign which is the home defeat to Estonia and in order to
erase it we will need to beat Montenegro on Thursday and win in Estonia on
Omri Casspi excelled for the blue-and- white once more on
Tuesday, scoring 23 points, grabbing seven rebounds and registering four
Yogev Ohayon was arguably even better, contributing 19 points
and seven rebounds while orchestrating Israel’s play to perfection.
Serbs also had no answer to Lior Eliyahu, who scored 22 points and had five
blocks, with Alex Tyus adding 12 points and seven rebounds.
“This is a
good result for us and I hope we can continue this way against Montenegro,” said
“This win puts our campaign back on track, but we can still lose
a game and that would set us back.”
Milos Teodosic and Zoran Erceg scored
10 points each for Serbia, which dropped to 3-2 and finds itself in real
Casspi was unstoppable in the first quarter and after a tight
start to the game, Israel raced ahead in the final six minutes of the
Casspi’s 13th point of the period capped a 15-0 run (23-8) and
Israel held a double-figure gap (25-15) after 10 minutes.
The Serbs threw
everything at Israel in an attempt to close the margin, but they could not make
any real inroads and Guy Pnini’s three-pointer as the first half buzzer sounded
maintained the 10-point cushion (48-38).
Israel still held a 65-56 lead
with 10 minutes remaining, but Ivan Paunic’s basket brought Serbia within five
points early in the fourth frame.
But the blue-and-white went on to score
10 of the next 13 points, with Ohayon’s long-range jumper, which was working
beautifully all night, giving the hosts a 13-point gap (79-66) with three
minutes to play from which there was no return.