Greece survived a third quarter onslaught to record a 69-60 victory over Slovenia.
Slovenia held the Greeks to just seven points in the third period to set-up a grandstand fourth period.
Greece though showed enough mental toughness to give them the win, hitting three triples in the last 71 seconds. Nikos Zisis hit 19 points for Greece, as he silenced the loud Slovenian support with two big shots in the clutch.
“This loss was hard for us, we battled back in the third and thought we could take the win, but credit to Greece, especially [Nikos] Zisis who made some big plays,” Slovenia’s Erazem Lorbek said after the game.
Greece enjoyed the better of the first two quarters, despite a fast start from the hosts-in-waiting as Lorbek and Zoran Dragic gave the Slovenians a 4-0 lead.
Antonis Fotis extended Hellas’ lead to 18-13 towards the end of the first, with an open dunk as Slovenia seemed to struggle with the hard-working, Panathinaikos guard, Nick Calathes, who was controlling the tempo of the contest and out-hustling and out-playing the Slovenian guards.
Greece’s lead ballooned in the second to 15 points (35-20) thanks to Calathes, as Slovenia seemed unable to cope with Greece’s growing perimeter threat, as well as their inside touch.
Slovenia though hit back in the third period, closing the gap to a single-point, 44-43, before Matjaz Smodis hit a three to give them the lead and leave Greece shellshocked, but it was only briefly.
“In the end we played strong defence, we made some big shots, and we made some big plays and that gave us the win,” Konstantinos Papanikolaou said after the game.