Israel falls to Serbia 92-81 in U20 European Championship Opener

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Israel fell to Serbia 92-81 in the opening game of the Under-20 European Basketball Championships in Tel Aviv. Yam Madar had the hot hand for the Blue & White as he scored 24 points and dished out 9 assists while Deni Avdija ended with 14 points, 8 boards and 6 helpers in the loss. Ranko Simovic led the way for Serbia with 18 points and 9 rebounds as Nikola Miskovic added 17 points in the win.

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3-Pointers
1) After a close first quarter, Serbia pulled away in the second frame thanks to Marko Pecarski who helped slice and dice the Israel defense. The same Pecarski who led Serbia in the Under-19 World Championship with 22.1 points per game just a week ago in Crete. It’s clear that Serbia is a very strong team and have a great chance to take the title in Tel Aviv. Israel was able to stand up to the likes of Croatia and Spain last week, but Serbia was a level ahead of those two national teams. Even when Israel used a huge third quarter to take the lead, Serbia kept their composure to hit a three pointer and a free throw to go into the final frame 64-61 where they pulled ahead for good to take the victory.

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2) Ariel Beit Halachmi’s squad will have to put this game behind them quickly as they have to still play Italy and Ukraine the next two nights for placement ahead of the Round of 16 knockout game on Wednesday night. Was the team a bit too excited playing at home? Yes. We’re they over anxious? Yes. Can they turn it around on Sunday night? Yes. There’s no question that Israel will be able to make the transition and they’ll get better shooting from Deni Avdija from behind the arc as he struggled mightily from deep going 1/9. Yam Madar was excellent and Yotam Hanochi who just retuned from injury will be better next game as well. But other players need to step up including Eidan Alber, Raz Adam, Ofer Malka, Tomer Levinson and Amit Suss as they must check their nerves at the door and play as they did in the warmup tournaments.

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3) There were a number of glaring statistics as Serbia outrebound Israel 52-36 with 17 offensive boards and held Israel to 1/9 from three point land after twenty minutes. Serbia was excellent under the boards and kept grabbing loose ball after loose ball following an Israel miss as well as their own. Each team shot 32/70 with Israel going 8/20 from beyond the arc in the second half. Israel will have to be better on the stat sheet and I’m sure they will be over the next few games or else it will be a very brief tournament for the Blue & White.

They said it…
Ariel Beit Halachmi – “We needed to do the little things better and we were a bit nervous. Serbia played us well and took us out of our comfort zone. The pressure forced us into mistakes and that’s what made the difference.”

Yam Madar – “We made defensive mistakes and we were punished very quickly. We gave up 92 points and you can’t win giving up so many points. On a personal level, I have to take responsibility when things aren’t going so well and I’m happy that I did and I tried to help but it what’s enough. We’ll do our best to defeat Italy.”