The Boomers’ suffocating defence gave the tourists an 8-point buffer at half time which they rode for the remainder of the game before clinching victory at the free-throw line.
Europe-based star David Andersen, who joined the Boomers in Rijeka directly after finalizing a new contract with Spanish side Barcelona, top scored for Australia with 16 points.
20-year old young gun Joe Ingles added 15 of the biggest points of his short career and may have done enough to ensure his spot on the 12-man Olympic roster, which will be announced by the AOC on July 11.
Starting forward Matthew Nielsen missed the match after contracting a virus on a taxing milk-run through Singapore, Frankfurt, Vienna and Zagreb that saw the Boomers arrive just 36 hours before their first European hit out.
Despite being travel-weary, Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian was elated with the victory and the progress of his team in the lead up to Beijing.
“Croatia were dominant early in the game and our presses caused havoc and got us back into the game and that was really the difference in us winning the game,” Goorjian said.
“We were thin on bigs and David Andersen played a huge role with very little preparation for the game, which was encouraging.
“Joe Ingles, Patrick Mills and Shawn Redhage came off the bench and got us going in the presses and ended up playing big minutes and were really good for us.
“And then down the stretch with the game on the line CJ [Bruton] ran the team and made plays.
“It’s early in the trip and I think a win is good for us to keep everybody’s spirits up after a grueling trip.
“This is a level up in competition from what we’ve experienced in Australia so it was good to win the game in our style and get contributions from so many people.”
Australia plays Croatia again on Friday morning, Australian time, before flying to Athens to contest the Acropolis Tournament against Croatia, Greece and Brazil.
Quarter by quarter:
1. AUS 18 CRO 18
H: AUS 40 CRO 32 (22-14)
3: AUS 61 CRO 52 (21-20)
F: AUS 78 CRO 74 (17-22)
AUSTRALIA 78 – David Andersen 16, Joe Ingles 15, Shawn Redhage 12 bt
CROATIA 74 – M Popvic 19, M Tomas 13, D Kus 9
in Rijeka, Croatia
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