Heads bloody but unbowed, the 2011 Eurobasket gold medalists Spain vented their frustrations on the hapless Croatian team to earn third place in the 2013 version of the tournament.
Not many expected Spain to come this far in 2013. After all, they had already secured the hosting rights to the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and were playing minus some of their top players. After barely making it to the knockout stage of the tournament with two losses against Greece and Italy, nobody expected Spain to rout Serbia by 30 in the quarterfinal. After they lost narrowly to France in overtime in Friday's semifinal, many analysts predicted that the Spaniards would just roll over and give up, especially in a third-place game which had a hungry Croatia team that was itching to avenge their first-round loss to the same team.
Spanish center Xavier Rey is mobbed by teammates after making a shot during Sunday's bronze medal match against Croatia. Spain won, 92-66.
Hosts or not, Spain still took their last game of FIBA Eurobasket seriously, reprising their rout of Croatia in the first found. Behind the hot shooting hands of guard Sergio Llull, Spain quickly took an early advantage, leading Croatia 23-18 after the first quarter. They managed to extend their lead further by halftime, outscoring their opponents 24-18 despite Croatia taking the lead with 4:55 left in the second quarter. Sergio Llull was once again the sparkplug in the pivotal run that saw Spain take a 10-point lead, sinking a three-pointer at the buzzer.
Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 19 points in the first half, was limited to only three markers in the second half
Llull again provided a highlight play when he dunked off a pass from Ricky Rubio to give Spain a 54-40 lead, two of the 13 fastbreak points that Spain converted. From then on, every Croatian uprising was quelled and Spain even led by 29 at some moments.
Spainish point guard Ricky Rubio had nothing but praise for his compatriots.
"We wanted to win so bad, our defense was pretty good from the first minute, Sergio Llull hit so many threes ... and Marc Gasol was, well, Marc Gasol," Rubio said after the game.
Backup playmaker Sergio Rodriguez was thankful for the medal finish. "We already value this medal and for sure we will value it even more in the future."
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