NBA star point guard Patty Mills was again impressive, top-scoring for the game with 22 points. Brad Newley and Matthew Dellavedova were both solid also, finishing with 11 points each.
For Croatia, Luka Zoric had 18 points, while big man Ante Tomic added 15 points.
After trailing by five points at the first break, the Aussies put together a dominant second term, holding Croatia to just five points for the quarter while running rampant offensively at the other end of the floor, dropping 22 points for the period, led by 11 points from Patty Mills. The likes of Matt Nielsen, Joe Ingles and AJ Ogilvy were also getting involved offensively as the Boomers built a 12-point lead going into half time.
It was Mills and Nielsen who continued to fire for the Aussies after the change of ends, as the lead was quickly stretched to 21 early in the third period.
A combined effort by the Croatians late in the term saw the lead trimmed to 10 with only a quarter to play, as the Boomers, aware of the fire-power of the Croatian outfit, looked to steady in the fourth.
When Andric scored from close range to open the final term however, the lead was down to eight as it was clear that the Boomers were going to need to earn this one. They responded, with Mark Worthington, Brad Newley and Joe Ingles all combining to see things quickly back out to 16 points.
To their credit the Croatians continued to fight throughout the entire last quarter, but when Matt Dellavedova nailed a three pointer with two minutes to play to keep the lead in double-digits, the game was in the Boomers’ hands, the team ultimately sealing the important 12 point win.
“Again it was a great defensive effort to keep Croatia to 66 [points] for the game, and in periods through the second half, we were able to get back on track through our defense,” said head coach Brett Brown.
“We’re never going to be a high-powered offensive team. We’ve hung our hat on being able to guard teams. You know, we're getting up and down and trying to get the ball to the right people, we’re doing all of that, but we’ve really placed a lot of emphasis on defending.
“We still had a good game offensively, though. Patty had a good game with 22 points and we still ended up with 78 points as a team which is a good effort,” said Brown.
The side now has a rest day as they turn their attention towards Saturday, when they face the might of Serbia. And with only weeks until the FIBA Oceania Championship tips off, with a ticket to London 2012 at stake, trimming this 14-man squad to a team of 12, as Brown concedes is not going to be easy.
“This is going to be a difficult team to make. We have some good players, some great people, you know, high character guys that are buying into the defensive side that we’re trying to hit upon,” he said.
“It’s survival of the fittest. I, along with the coaching staff, are going to have a really difficult decision to make and it’s really going to come down to accountability defensively — that is really what is going to separate who ends up on the team or not,” he said.
Australian Boomers 78 (Mills 22, Dellavedova 11, Newley 11) def Croatia 66 (Zoric 18, Tomic 15)