LJUBLJANA (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Serbia finalised the field of qualifiers for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup by knocking off Italy
76-64 on Saturday to claim seventh place at EuroBasket 2013.
Nenad Krstic scored 17 points while Nemanja Nedovic, Nemanja Bjelica and Stefan Markovic all had 12 points as the Serbians became the 20th nation to book their spot for Spain 2014.
The remaining four spots will be filled by four wild cards.
"Of course this is a big moment for this young team. This was the goal we had coming into this tournament. And now we have a spot in the World Cup," said Nedovic.
Bogdan Bogdanovic added seven points and nine rebounds for Serbia, who improved one spot from their eighth-placed showing at EuroBasket 2011.
Italy finished eighth and full of disappointment after missing the World Cup following wins in their first five games of the tournament in Slovenia.
"The better team won. We just have to accept this and look forward to next time. It's a tough moment after such a strong start,” said Marco Belinelli, who was held to eight points.
Luigi Datome paced the Italians with 19 points and Alessandro Gentile scored 14 points in the loss.
Playing their third game in as many days, Italy struggled to get into the game on defense and Serbia used triples by Nedovic and Bjelica to take a 12-5 lead. It was down to 15-10 when Serbia raced out on a 12-1 run to finish the first quarter up 27-11.
The Serbian lead was extended to 19 points, 30-11, when Italy finally started to execute better with a 12-2 spurt to close to within 32-23. A Vasilje Micic three-pointer pushed the Serbian advantage up to 39-25 and the Balkan side led 41-27 at halftime.
Italy continued to fight to get back into the game with Belinelli and Datome hitting from beyond the arc and twice cut the deficit down to nine points. But Nedovic answered with two treys of his own and Markovic also hit from outside in pushing the lead back up to 13. Serbia led 55-44 after three quarters.
Vladimir Stimac scored Serbia's first five points of the final period to give Krstic a breather and his team a 60-47 advantage. Italy would not give up and got within 62-54. But Krstic made a big basket, before Nikola Kalinic and Markovic followed with back-to-back triples to push the lead to 70-54 and decide the game.
In the day's other game, Slovenia made sure they finished the tournament on a high by defeating Ukraine 69-63 in the battle for fifth place.
For full and in-depth coverage of EuroBasket 2013, go to the official website http://www.eurobasket2013.org.