Croatia defeats Italy to reach EuroBasket quarters

Croatia rallied with a big third quarter to reach the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship with a 76-68 victory over Italy on Saturday.

Bojan Bogdanovic leads the charge with 18 points

Italy's Marco Belinelli, right, challenges Croatia's Krunoslav Simon at the Stozice Arena in Ljubljana on September 14, 2013. (Andrej isakovic/AFP/Getty Images)

Croatia rallied with a big third quarter to reach the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship with a 76-68 victory over Italy on Saturday.

Spain, the defending two-time champion, cruised past Finland 82-56. Spain, with two wins and two losses, plays Italy in its final second-round game for a place in the quarterfinals.

Croatia trailed by 13 early and was down by five at halftime but outscored Italy 26-9 — including a 10-0 run — in the third to go ahead for good, holding off a late rally.

Shooting guards Bojan Bogdanovic and Krunoslav Simon had eight points each during the run and point guard Roko Leno Ukic scored six straight to spark Croatia's comeback.

Bogdanovic finished with 18 points and Simon had 14, while Luigi Datome had 24 for Italy.

"We stepped up our defence in the second half and we played more as a team," Croatia centre Luka Zoric said.

Croatia is 3-1 and sure to go through, while Italy is 2-2.

"I don't think we need to lose any confidence now. We lost the games against Slovenia and Croatia but we were not dominated and we don't need to fear Spain," Datome said. "The crucial moment was the third quarter, they went 10-0 and turned the game around."

Italy cut the deficit to four with 2:44 left to play but Marco Cusin missed a dunk, Bogdanovic grabbed the rebound and Simon hit a jumper before sinking two free throws to end Italy's hopes.

Jose Calderon led Spain with 23 points, while Petteri Koponen had 17 for Finland.

Spain had 15 more rebounds and 10 more assists than Finland, which dropped to 1-3.

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