In a marvelous late effort, Italy delivered upon being down massively in the second-half, carving a 78-76 victory over Serbia in the second round of the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Smart Araneta Coliseum on Friday, Sept. 1.
From being flawless atop Group B, Serbia settles for its first loss of the tournament by squandering as much as a 16-point margin against their fellow European powerhouse in The Blues.
Serbia built a commanding 16-point margin with 4:08 in the third via Nikola Jovic’s trey, 60-44. But Gil Azzuri flared a sudden two-way run to get themselves back on track by ending the period in a 15-2 avalanche, 62-59, capped off by a three-pointer from Luigi Datome.
Both clubs were in the fighting distance in the last salvo until Marco Spissu and Simone Fontecchio handed Italy a crucial lead at the 3:21 mark, 74-69.
Bogdan Bogdanovic sank his two foul shots to pull Serbia nearer, but Spissu drove hard for a layup as a response, 76-71.
With 0:50 remaining, Marko Guduric drained a trey to inch Serbia within two, 76-74. But Fontecchio returned the favor with a mid-range jumper of his own, 78-74.
Bogdanovic clinched a foul and sank his two free throws to trail themselves again in a one-possession game. Yet as Fontecchio missed their final play, the Serbians weren’t able to close out in an escape as Stefan Jovic missed a potential game-winning trey.
Fontecchio charged his Italian squad with a game-high 30 points, shooting 11-of-15 from the area. Spissue chipped in 14 alongside his three triples.
Bogdanovic stood at the front for the Serbians with 18, but he was held down to an inconsistent 4-of-16 shooting display.