By Josh Cohen
Sept. 10, 2017
ORLANDO — The Montenegrin basketball program took a huge step this year by advancing to the knockout stage of EuroBasket for the first time since joining FIBA as an independent nation in 2006.
They also learned during their Round of 16 game against another up-and-coming team that they have a long way to go before becoming title contenders in a major international tournament.
While Nikola Vucevic had another solid performance – 16 points, nine rebounds and four assists – Montenegro had no answer for Latvia’s hot 3-point shooting in a 100-68 loss on Sunday in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Latvians knocked down 15 of their 25 3-point attempts. Janis Timma, whose NBA Draft rights are held by the Orlando Magic, posted 21 points and hit all four of his attempts from beyond the arc. Kristaps Porzingis recorded 19 points and six rebounds.
Bojan Dubljevic tallied 21 points for the Montenegrins, who shot just 38.8 percent from the floor and made only seven free throws.
Vucevic, who has played for his country each time they have qualified for EuroBasket, scored in double figures in all six games this year and averaged 14.5 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Set to start his sixth season with the Magic, Vucevic has averaged a double-double four times thus far in his NBA career. The 26-year-old moved to the United States from Montenegro prior to his senior year of high school and then played collegiately for the USC Trojans for three seasons.
Montenegro will now hope to qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup, which China will host. A total of 32 countries throughout the world and 12 from Europe will participate in this competition. FIBA announced earlier this year a new and unique qualifying system for its World Cup tournament. Stay tuned for details.