It was a surprising outcome that defied expectations as Montenegro challenges the USA.
Anticipated to face a formidable challenge from the all-NBA USA squad, Montenegro displayed an unexpected level of vigor right from the start, making the Americans appear vulnerable for the first time in the FIBA World Cup.
Montenegrin center, Marko Simonović, expressed his satisfaction with the team’s performance, stating,
“What can I say? I’m really happy with how we opened the game and how we played against the United States. They are perhaps the best team here in the World Cup. So, I’m really proud of my team, my teammates, coaching staff, everybody who is on our team.”Marko Simonović, Montenegro basketball center
Montenegro held the lead for the majority of the first half, and even after the halftime break, the Americans, who had previously maintained an average winning margin of 34.3 points in the first round, struggled to shake off their resilient opponents.
In the end, the American team prevailed, led by explosive guard Anthony Edwards, who propelled them to an 85-73 victory on Friday night, September 1, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Montenegro’s coach, Boško Radović, acknowledged the remarkable performance of his team, saying, “A small country like Montenegro, with 600,000 people, played tonight one of the best games ever. We faced such a formidable team—talented and athletic, like the United States—and we were in the game for 35 minutes.”
Despite having an NBA player in their ranks, Chicago Bulls star Nikola Vučević, who delivered an impressive double-double with 18 points and 16 rebounds, Montenegro recognized the challenge of matching the all-around firepower of the American team.
“We attempted to implement strategies that would alter the offense and defense of the American team…but as I mentioned earlier, we struggled to score during critical moments of the game,” commented Radovic as his team’s record fell to 2-2.
USA coach Steve Kerr acknowledged Montenegro’s preparedness against his team, which had secured a quarterfinal berth by remaining undefeated in four games. He praised Montenegro, describing them as a “fantastic” and “well-coached team” that executed their game plan effectively.
As Montenegro concludes its campaign with a match against Greece on Sunday, September 3, both teams having been eliminated, the small European country is aware that it has made a significant impact on the World Cup.
“I believe we demonstrated how we can compete against the best teams in this World Cup,” Simonovic remarked. “So, I’m really happy and proud of my team, and we are now focusing on the next game.”