The Aussies fell in a thriller to Serbia, which would have booked them a ticket to the gold medal game and some guaranteed silverware. They eventually succumbed in a nail-biting, but low-scoring affair, 63-58.
For the Aussies, Dante Exum was impressive yet again, finishing with 21 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists, while Felix Von Hofe (4 rebounds) and Nicholas Duncan (8 rebounds) both finished with 12 points each.
For the Serbians, Nikola Jankovic top-scored with 20 points to go along with a massive 16 rebound haul, while Visilje Micic finished with 13 points and 8 assists.
The Emus had the dream start, jumping out of the gates to take a 7-0 lead early in the first. Nicholas Duncan has enjoyed some long-range success this tournament and got things going with a big three-point bomb. Serbia responded quickly however, and drew level with under five minutes to play in the third. The Aussies rallied again, and built an 18-11 quarter-time lead.
If there’s one quarter the Emus will look back on and rue this game, it’ll be the second. Held to just 7 points for the term, the Serbians went on a 13-0 run at the beginning of the quarter, with the Emus struggling to score.
Duncan nailed a two-pointer to steady for the Aussies, and followed it up with another three to stay in touch with the Serbians, who had now built a handy lead with half-time approaching. This quarter, it was all Micic and Jankovic who were hurting the Aussies, before Stefan Pot scored in the dying moments of the quarter to take a 32-25 lead into the change rooms.
The Aussies needed to come out of the half-time break determined, and they did. Dante Exum scored six consecutive points, including a big three, but Jankovic was continuing to prove a headache.
The Serbian weathered the Aussie challenge and dragged the lead out to 10 at one stage, before consecutive threes from Von Hofe, followed up by a Rowley basket saw the lead trimmed back to 4 points. A pair of Exum free-throws brought things back to within 2 points late. As he did at the end of the half, Serbia’s Pot managed to score in the dying moments again, the lead back to 4 points, setting up for a thrilling final term.
The fourth quarter started tight. For almost four minutes, an Exum free-throw was the only bucket made by either side, only three points separating the two nations.
Things eventually got going and the teams started traded baskets, with Serbia stretching the lead to six points, the Emus responding each time, dragging them back to within a couple. With just over a minute to play, a Von Hofe three-point bomb saw the lead down to one point. Serbia’s Novak responded with a three of his own, which Von Hofe dramatically answered again with another bucket form down-town. With 17 seconds remaining, the Aussies trailed 59-58.
With the ball in Serbia’s hands, they managed to get to the foul line, Micic sinking a pair of clutch free-throws to send it back out to a three-point lead. The Emus failed to convert at the other end of the floor in the dying seconds, seeing Serbia snatch the dramatic 63-58 win.
Despite the disappointment, the Emus must regroup, and match-up against a tough side in Lithuania, who fell to the USA overnight by 40 points, the winner taking home the bronze.
The bronze medal showdown tips off at 2:00am AEST. You can watch the game on LiveBasketball.TV or follow the stats at www.prague2013.FIBA.com
Australian Emus 58 (Exum 21, Duncan 12, Von Hofe 12) defeated by Serbia (Jankovic 20, Micic 13)