The home side made amends from a slow start in the first half, behind on the scoreboard after 20 minutes to eventually defeat the Jayco Australian Opals by six points, 86-78.
The Opals stepped up from their opening match defeat at the hands of Serbia on Sunday, with a determined performance in the early hours of Tuesday morning in Vrsac.
“It was sensational,” said Joyce following the game.
The Australians, with 13 offensive rebounds, held a three-point lead at the half-time break before the home team stepped up their physicality with 33 free throws to the tourist’s 8, allowing the momentum and scores to shift into Serbia’s favour. The Jayco Australian Opals made the most of their limited opportunities to reduce the deficit in the final quarter but were still six points in arrears at the final buzzer.
“I expected this, this is what happens when you play overseas and that’s the whole point of being here. The girls need to experience some adversity and physicality and see how they handle it,” Joyce explained. “For a young team, we made huge drives from the first game to the second game so I’m actually really happy with the performance.”
Four Opals hit double figures with Stephanie Talbot in just her second international scoring 15 points, 14 rebounds and “tremendous defence” against Serbian star Milica Dabović; Suzy Batkovic again showed great leadership with 15 points; point guard Tess Lavey had a “sensational game” with 10 points and 6 assists, while Belinda Snell scored 13 points in 16 minutes.
Joyce credited 20-year-old Talbot and 22-year-old Lavey for their “exceptional maturity and toughness,” throughout the match.
The Jayco Australian Opals will now shift their attention to Italy, ranked 29 in the world, with the first of three games to be played on Friday morning AEST. Joyce is optimistic of coming away from the series with “a win or two.”
“Again we’re not going to get any help but that’s the whole point of us coming away,” he said.
Serbia 86 defeated Australia 78