By Josh Cohen
Sept. 5, 2017
ORLANDO — When you talk about the most improved teams in Europe, Montenegro may be at the top of the stack.
Ranked 72nd in the world in the most recent FIBA rankings, Montenegro has shown thus far at EuroBasket 2017 that it can now compete with some of the more proven and experienced nations.
Its 88-75 victory over the Czech Republic on Tuesday was another reminder of how far the Montenegrins have come on the hardwood.
Nikola Vucevic posted 17 points and 14 rebounds and his countrymen sank 16 3-pointers as Montenegro is now one step closer to advancing to the Round of 16 for the first time since joining FIBA as an independent nation in 2006.
It had become clear during last year’s qualifiers that Montenegro had become a formidable team. Failing to qualify in 2015 for this competition, Montenegro was extra motivated to return to EuroBasket and show it wasn’t a group any opponent can sleep on.
With dominant victories over Hungary and Czech Republic and a near-upset over highly favored and perennial power Croatia over the past few days, Vucevic and his compatriots should be proud of how well they have progressed since their disappointing performances in EuroBasket 2011 and 2013.
Vucevic was sensational against the Czechs. He shot 8-of-13 from the floor and had three blocks. Perhaps most encouraging in this tournament for the Orlando Magic big man has been his defensive focus and precision.
Suad Sehovic buried all four of his 3-point attempts and Nikola Ivanovic, Tyrese Rice and Nikola Pavlicevic each knocked down three from downtown. Montenegro led by as many as 28 and it limited the Czech Republic to 38 percent shooting from the floor.
Montenegro’s final game in Group C pool play will take place on Thursday against the host nation, Romania.