Croatia opened their Olympic qualifying campaign on Wednesday against Brazil at Spaladium Arena in Split. After three years, Croatia’s best basketball player Bojan Bogdanović played an official game in the Croatia jersey again.
After Brazil topped Croatia in their first game of the Olympic basketball qualifiers in Split on Wednesday (94:67), Croatia and Tunisia met on Thursday. The winner of the game would go to the semifinals.
Bogdanović opened the scoring for Croatia with a 2pt fadeaway jump shot for 2:3. Bogdanović made two free throws to make it 4:5. Hezonja made 2/2 free throws for 5:5.
Croatia took the lead at 7:5 thanks to a Hezonja dunk, and a layup seconds later made it 12:5! Hezonja was on fire. Tunisia called a timeout.
Ante Žižić nailed two free throws for 14:8. Hezonja scored his 10th point of the game for 16:8 with 2:27 to go. Žižić made a 2pt layup for 18:10. A Bilan dunk ended the 1st quarter 20:11.
Jordano scored a 2pt driving layup for 22:14 at the start of the 2nd quarter. Bilan nailed two free throws for 24:16. A layup and free throw by Bilan brought Croatia to 27:16 before Bogdanović made it 29:16 with 6 minutes to go.
Žižić scored his 5th basket thanks to a free throw for the +10 Croatia lead (30:20). A Žižić dunk made it 32:20 and a free throw 33:22.
Hezonja recorded his 13th point with a stunning 3-pointer for 36:22. Žižić was unstoppable, too, with a tip-in for 38:25. He scored again for 40:28 with just over a minute to go. Hezonja scored for a +14 lead (42:28) which was the score at the end of the 2nd quarter.
Ukić started the 3rd quarter with a 2pt jump shot, but Tunisia came back to score 6 points for 46:36. Croatia’s comfortable lead quickly diminished and they were only up 6 (46:40). Bogdanović nailed a 3-pointer to wake Croatia up for 49:40. Tunisia was only down by 4 with 5 minutes to go – 49:45.
Hezonja scored a free throw and a 2pt jump shot for 52:47. Croatia was only up by 2 points with 2 minutes to go – 52:50. Hezonja scored for +4 (54:50). A shocking display by Croatia saw Tunisia take the lead thanks to a 3-pointer for 56:57 to end the 3rd quarter.
After a dramatic start to the final quarter, Bogdanvić scored a 3-pointer to put Croatia back in the lead by 2 (59:57). A tip-in by Marčinković made it 61:57.
Žižić dunked for 63:59 and Tunisia called a timeout. Hezonja scored for 65:62 with 4 minutes to go.
A foul on Bogdanović saw him make both free throws for +4 Croatia with just under 3 minutes to go.
Hezonja scored for 69:65 and a Tunisia timeout was called with a minute and a half to go. Croatia was only up by 2 with 38 seconds to go. Marčinković scored a 3-pointer to save the day for 72:67. Ukić then fouled for 3 Tunisia free throws – it was 72:79 with 18 seconds to go.
With 6 seconds to go, Hezonja scored 1/2 free throws for 73:70. The game ended at 75:70 for Croatia.
After the group stage, there is a day of rest, and on July 3, the semifinal matches are scheduled. Croatia will play Germany in the semis on Saturday.
The final match is scheduled for July 4 at 7:30 pm. Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Croatia’s group crosses over with Germany, Russia, and Mexico.
The Split tournament and the other three hosted by Belgrade, Kaunas, and Victoria in Canada are all scheduled from June 29 to July 4, 2021.
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