SCG - Serbia & Montenegro hammer Argentina in Singapore
SINGAPORE (FIBA World Championship) – Serbia & Montenegro trounced Argentina 83-64 in the opening game of the Philips Singapore Cup on Friday.
In a dress rehearsal of the Group A clash between the two sides at the FIBA World Championship on August 24, Dragan Sakota’s young team established an early lead against the Olympic gold medalists and won convincingly with Igor Rakocevic and Darko Milicic providing much of the inspiration.
Rakocevic, who has taken over the captaincy from the retired Dejan Bodiroga, scored a game-high 18 points, burying four three-pointers along the way.
Milicic also provided evidence he could be one of biggest stars once the tournament tips off in Japan, adding 17 points with nine rebounds.
Serbia & Montenegro won the last two world titles when the country was known as Yugoslavia, but since their second triumph in Indianapolis when they overcame Argentina in the final, they have fallen on hard times.
The national team, now coached by Red Star Belgrade boss Sakota, do not have many of the veteran players who took part in last year’s EuroBasket yet they have now won eight of their nine warm-up games for the FIBA World Championship.
Argentina shot poorly, making only 20 of 66 (30.3%) shots from the floor.
Carlos Delfino poured in 16 points for Sergio Hernandez’s team while Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili weighed in with 11 apiece.
“This is a friendly game and it will be very different at the World Championship,” said Sakota.
“We have a young team and a lot of players haven’t played in a World Championship, but it’s good to see that they are finding their form.
“Nineteen points doesn’t tell the whole story.
“I saw Argentina play like this before the Olympics and they won the gold medal.”
Sakota’s team began the game ice cold in the opening four minutes as Argentina opened up an early 5-0 advantage, but the Blues gradually got into their stride, finishing off the first quarter with eight straight points to open up a 16-11 lead.
The scoring run from the European side continued early in the second quarter, with Rakocevic nailing the first three-pointer of the contest to put his side into a 10-point lead.
They threatened to run away with the game in the first half, opening up a 13-point lead at 35-22, only to have their advantage cut to six as both Daniel Farabello and Delfino made shots from the arc.
Delfino, who was hit while shooting, converted the free throw for a rare four-point play to reduce Serbia & Montenegro’s lead to 35-29 at the break.
Sakota’s team took control again at the start of the second half, again reeling off eight straight points to open the gap to 12 points.
Milicic made just one of four field goals in the first 20 minutes but found his shooting touch in the third quarter when he made all four of his shots - including a pair of threes.
The Serbo-Montenegrins then extended their lead to 18 points - their biggest of the game.
The South Americans fought back and a 9-3 run closed the gap to 67-57 early in the final period.
But Rakocevic and Co scored 11 consecutive points in the final three minutes to complete a comprehensive 19-point win.
Serbia & Montenegro will take on Spain on Saturday while the Argentinians will face Slovenia.
From Colin Pereira, PA Sport, Singapore
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