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Croatia run out of gas down the stretch, lose to Italy in Milan at EuroBasket 2022

Ivica Zubac plays solid, but can’t help Croatia overcome Italy.

Italy v Croatia: Group C - FIBA EuroBasket 2022 Photo by Mattia Ozbot/Getty Images

Playing their fourth game in five days, Croatia looked to claim their third win of the EuroBasket 2022 group stage campaign when they took on Italy in Milan on Tuesday.

As they have been wont to do recently, Croatia rallied from a halftime deficit with a fantastic third quarter. After climbing back from an 8-point margin at the half, Croatia went into the final frame with a 4-point lead and looked to take their third win of the competition. Unfortunately, it didn’t end the way they wanted it to as Italy won, 81-76.

Croatia took an early 6-point lead in the fourth quarter, but Italy, using the frantic energy of the home crowd, rallied to retake the lead and never looked back as Croatia ran out of gas and made poor decisions down the stretch.

Ivica Zubac finished with 13 points and 6 rebounds, as well as a block, in 21 minutes. But the biggest factor might have been how little Croatia played the LA Clippers’ starting center down the stretch as Zubac was removed with roughly five minutes to go.

In those final five minutes, Croatia couldn’t attack the glass with any semblance of ferocity, leaving them vulnerable as Italy racked up multiple offensive rebounds and second chance opportunities. Zubac’s replacement, the New Orleans Pelicans’ Karlo Matkovic, missed a putback dunk that would have brought Croatia back within a single possession late.

Bojan Bogdanovic (Utah Jazz) had 27 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists to lead Croatia. Dario Saric (Phoenix Suns) had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists but turned the ball over 6 times. Croatia, as a team, coughed the ball up 18 times in the game leading to 18 points for Italy.

Nicolo Melli and Simone Fontecchio (Jazz) led the way for Italy with 19 points apiece.

Croatia (2-2) finishes up Group C play on Thursday against Ukraine (3-1) in what is a must-win scenario for Croatia if they want to reach the knockout phase. Italy (2-2) finishes up with Great Britain (0-4).

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