A heated rivary came to the frey this afternoon, in day three – and it was Slovenia who came away with the spoils, beating Croatia, 91-84 in Istanbul.
In a group, that so far has produced six blowouts from six games. This was exactly what was needed to kick-start it all again. 22 three-pointers were hit, 11 by each.
Croatia is a good aggressive team.” Said Slovenia coach, Mehmed Becirovic.
“We couldn’t find fields in the first half. We started better to the third period – and we were good at the rebounds.”
Becirovic concluded: “I’m trying some changes for 3-4 matches.” The reasoning behind a starting five of: Udrih, Nachbar, Dragic, Zupan and Brezec.
Uro Slokar led the green attack with 15 points, off the bench in victory. With Jaka Lakovic breaking out of his funk with 15 also. Croatia were led in vain by Roko-Leni Ukic’s 20.
In the opening exchanges, it was Croatia who started the brighter, taking the game to the Slovenians, but, also the overwhelming support from the Slovenians – all clad in green.
Luksa Andric tipped in the opening bucket, which was equalled by Gaspar Vidmar. The Croats seized the opportunity and took early 8-5 lead, thanks to a coast-to-coast lay-up from Davor Kus.
Despite being the better team, the Croatians could not pull away – as Slovenia hung around – and a bucket from Uros Slokar closed the first quarter with Slovenia down, 16-18.
Slovenia’s execution and shot selection let them down in the second, as Croatia picked holes in their defensive line. A baseline jumper from Marko Banic gave Croatia a 28-22 cushion – and Andric extended that lead to 32-24, before leaving the game on four fouls.
Marko Tomas was a force the second quarter, adding eight points to the five he got in the opening ten minutes, as he scored on the buzzer to give Croatia a 44-39 lead heading to the locker-rooms.
Slovenia stepped up a gear in the third, and tied the game at 44-all with a fast-break lay-up. Ukic broke the monopoly with a triple to silence the loud Slovenian support.
That did not last long, a fade away from Goran Dragic – and a run of four straight three-pointers from the men-in-green, including one from Miha Zupan gave the Slovenians a 64-57 advantage going into the final stanza. The noise-levels from the 6,000 plus Slovene crowd were bursting.
Croatia did not lie-down, as they hit three straight treys – including two from Marko Popovic gave the Croats the initiative again at, 68-67.
An 8-0 Slovenian spurt, culminating in a Dragic lay-up gave Mehmed Becirovic’s men a 80-71 lead. From then they never looked back.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Istanbul