Serbia edges Croatia 73-72 in round of 16 at world basketball championship

ISTANBUL — Aleksander Rasic scored five points in the last 21 seconds to help Serbia edge Croatia 73-72 in the round of 16 at the basketball world championship.

Croatian guard Marko Popovic made two free throws with five seconds left to tie the game at 72-72, but Rasic was fouled by Davor Kus as he attempted a shot with one second left.

Rasic made a free throw and Marko Tomas' full-court shot fell short as time expired.

Croatia made five of 24 three-point attempts; Serbia made five of 15.

"The game was very, very tough," Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic said. "It was necessary to play 40 minutes just to beat a very good team like Croatia.

"I'm not satisfied that we have made just the round of eight."

Popovic led Croatia with 21 points, and Roko-Leni Ukic and Marko Banic added 10 each. Oklahoma City Thunder centre Nenad Krstic had 16 points for Serbia, while Rasic added 15.

Serbia made eight of its first 11 field goals in the first major global basketball tournament game between the Balkan neighbours, but Croatia outrebounded Serbia 10 to two to take a 27-19 lead going into the second quarter.

Serbia narrowed the gap to 34-36 at halftime, and in the third quarter the teams traded leads 11 times.

Serbia widened its lead to 65-57 with three minutes left in the game, but Popovic had seven points down the stretch to lead Croatia's comeback.

After Popovic missed his last attempt, he slid into the opposing bench, and laid still, face down, as the Serbs celebrated. Serbian coaches helped him to his feet.

"You can't be happy when you lose like this," Croatia coach Josip Vrankovic said. "It's a really hard game but what can we do?"