Evan Turner did his best to keep Team USA undefeated on their overseas trip, but it was to no avail as the Americans were defeated 98-82 by host Serbia in the 2009 Serbia International Invitational on Sunday night in Belgrade.
Just one day after tallying seven points and four rebounds in 11 minutes of action in a come-from-behind 85-81 win over Team Canada, the Ohio State junior-to-be scored a team-high 16 points off the bench Sunday to go with six rebounds, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Serbians, who improved to 2-0 with the victory.
"Obviously, you have to keep getting better, and we are motivated to keep getting better," Turner told reporters after the game. "We have to learn to play through adversity. In certain situations, we have to make the most out of every play."
Both teams shot an identical 28-of-64 (43.8 percent) from the floor, but the Serbians capitalized on 46 trips to the free throw line by knocking down 39 of their foul shots in a game that introduced America's young players to the international whistle that has plagued many Team USA squads in the past.
"Tonight's game was exactly what I thought it would be, and it's what we were very concerned with," said USA and University of Wisconsin head coach Bo Ryan . "They sent a message. They are bigger and stronger inside. They are going to take it there, and they are going to try to shove it down our throats. When we try to do the same at the other end, we have to learn about the contact and what officials are going to call. The main thing is not to overreact to how a game is being called. It's a different game, and for some of our guys, the extra step really hurt. The Serbians really know how to use that. We were thinking we were in position to take a charge, and they took one more step to go by the defensive player."
Serbia struck first and jumped to a 13-6 lead in the opening minutes, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the Americans. They went on a 5-0 run to pull within two points at 13-11 and then used another 5-0 run to close out the period with a 29-24 lead on a three-pointer by Turner, who also hit a big three in Saturday's game to give Team USA its first lead over Canada.
The game remained a hard-fought battle in the second quarter, but the USA held its ground and took a three-point, 50-47, lead into the halftime locker room. During the first half, the USA was called for 17 fouls and Serbia took advantage of its 26 trips to the line, making 20 of its tries. The USA went 8-of-10 from the line in the first half.
It was in the third quarter where things really got away from the Americans, as the Serbians went to a suffocating press defense that held Team USA to just 14 points for the quarter. Meanwhile, Serbia totaled 29 points in the frame behind a dominating effort by Miroslav Raduljica. The Serbian forward scored a game-high 18 points, thanks to a 12-for-12 night at the free throw line, while grabbing five rebounds before fouling out.
"He took over the game in the second half, and he changed the momentum for them. He's that good of a player," Ryan said. "He's a guy that took his name out of the draft knowing that he wanted to try to win the gold for his country. He's trying to make a point. He certainly made a point last night against the Russians, and he did the same against us."
Things didn't go much better in the fourth as Serbia got out on an 8-2 run to open the final stanza, and the USA was never able to recover, as they were outscored 22-18 in the quarter and 51-32 for the half.
"Down on their end, the ball stopped, and they got to the free throw line," Turner said. "We have to make sure we become more efficient. We can't go on scoring droughts, and we have to stick together and acclimate ourselves to how the officials are calling the game."
The USA was outrebounded by Serbia 39-29 and shot 43.8 percent (28-64 FGs) from the field and 65.6 percent (21-32 FTs) from the line, while Serbia also shot 43.8 percent (28-64 FGs) from the line, but connected on 39 of its 46 tries at the charity stripe for 84.8 percent.
The round-robin Serbia International Invitational concludes on June 29 with the USA taking on Russia (12:30 p.m. EDT) and Serbia against Canada (3:00 p.m. EDT).
The United States is set to open World University Games play on July 3 against Finland (2:00 p.m. EDT) and faces South Korea on July 4 (2:00 p.m.). Second round action is scheduled for July 6-7, quarterfinals will be played July 9 and medal semifinals are slated for July 10. The gold medal will be contested on July 11 (3:00 p.m. EDT).
Team USA contributed to this report.