It always seemed like somewhat of a long shot that Croatia would not secure placement into the knockout stage of EuroBasket 2022, and Thursday’s game against Ukraine would go a long way to ensuring that they would at least play one more game at the prestigious tournament.
Croatia controlled the early stages of the contest, even holding an 11-point lead at one point in the second quarter before Ukraine found their way back into this one and seized control at various moments.
After finding themselves down in the fourth quarter with five minutes to play, Croatia brought the thunder, rallying to notch a 90-85 triumph over Ukraine on Thursday in Milan. The victory secured Croatia a spot in the knockout round that will begin play on Saturday in Berlin.
Ivica Zubac once again got the start for Croatia, finishing with 10 points and 8 rebounds in 23 minutes. The LA Clippers’ big man has been consistent throughout the group stage portion of the event, averaging 11.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks while shooting 66.7% from the field in 22.4 minutes. Zubac has only had one game where he didn’t reach double-figures in scoring.
Croatia needed a win on Thursday primarily because they’ve let two golden opportunities slip by the wayside in this tournament. The first being against Greece when they rallied from a 16-point halftime deficit and gave themselves a chance to win before ultimately failing to do so. The second coming against Italy on Tuesday as ran out of gas in the fourth quarter.
Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 27 points. The current Utah Jazz forward made 8 of his 16 shots from the field and also added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals to aid Croatia.
In a surprising move, Croatia opted to keep Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric (Phoenix Suns) on the bench during crunch time. It proved to be the right call as they escaped with a win.
Svi Mykhailiuk, who last played for the Toronto Raptors, finished with 14 points for Ukraine.