Serbia is the first semifinalist of the 2023 World Cup after a resounding 68-87 win over previously unbeaten Lithuania on Tuesday. Former two-time Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Rising Star Bogdan Bogdanovic had a game-high 21 points to lead Serbia, and Filip Petrusev, who played with Crvena Zvezda Meridianbet Belgrade last season, finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
Bogdanovic and Petrusev, both former EuroLeague champs, did their parts, one in each half, to send Serbia to the semis. Bogdanovic, who won the EuroLeague in 2017 with Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul, scored 18 in the first half. Back-to-back three-pointers early in the fourth quarter by Petrusev, who helped Anadolu Efes Istanbul to the title in 2022, opened a 57-82 gap that allowed Serbia to cruise the rest of the way.
Lithuania started better and led early, with Tadas Sedekerskis of Baskonia Vitoria-Gasteiz netting a pair of triples. Bogdanovic and Olympiacos Piraeus center Nikola Milutinov helped Serbia stay in touch and then take a second-quarter lead that their team would never relinquished.
Milutinov downed all of his 9 points in the first half, outdueling Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas, a EuroCup Rising Star in 2012. Serbia led 38-49 at the break. With Rokas Jokubaitis of FC Barcelona leading Lithuania's charge at the start of the third quarter and his team turning to zone defense, Milutinov's passing came to light, as his assist for Stefan Jovic's third triple made it 48-62.
With Serbia with the lead, Petrusev, Fenerbahce shooter Marko Guduric and Partizan Mozzart Bet Belgrade guard Aleksa Avramovic finished the job, showing focus and poise when it mattered most. Guduric contributed 9 points and dished most of his 6 assists after the break. Avramovic scored 8 points while picking up 4 steals and 2 assists.
On the losing side, Sedekerskis collected 14 points and 9 rebounds, Jokubaitis had 11 points and 9 assists, while Zalgiris Kaunas swingman Ignas Brazdeikis finished with 11 points.
Lithuania's only lapse of the tournament was ill-timed, coming in the first do-or-die knockout stage, the quarterfinals, just two days after it had handed the United States its first loss of the World Cup.
Serbia, meanwhile, might have guaranteed itself a spot in next summer's Olympic Games in Paris. Two such berths will go to the top two European teams in the World Cup. So, if Italy cannot beat the USA later on Tuesday and the same fate befalls Slovenia against Canada on Wednesday, Serbia will have already punched its ticket to Paris.