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Gritty Spain turn focus to Burgos and European champions Slovenia
BURGOS (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers) - Spain coach Sergio Scariolo is feeling encouraged about his team's FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers campaign heading into Sunday's game against Slovenia thanks to the gritty, determined and winning effort of his unheralded group of players at Montenegro.
While many wondered if Spain would win in the Balkans with a roster that had no members of this past summer's team at FIBA EuroBasket 2017, Scariolo's charges laid those doubts to rest with an inspirational effort in a 79-66 victory.
"This is one of the victories that I feel most proud of," Scariolo beamed. "It's a pleasure to win but also to work with these players. We hope we can play a great game on Sunday against the European champions."
One player who excelled for Spain was Fran Vazquez, a center in the Spain sides at FIBA EuroBasket 2005 and the FIBA Basketball World Cup five years later. His full attention is now on Sunday's big event in Burgos.
"It's a very difficult game against Slovenia but we are playing at home and that will help us, especially in the difficult moments," he said. "The fans can be behind us and get us to play how we want to."
Slovenia will be in a confident frame of mind themselves after leading Belarus by as many as 24 points before settling for an 87-74 triumph. Slovenia defeated Spain in the Semi-Finals at EuroBasket 2017 before knocking off Serbia to capture their first-ever title in the competition.
Key Match-Ups: Klemen Prepelic, who distinguished himself as a big-game player for Slovenia at the EuroBasket, showed against Belarus that he can also set up his teammates for baskets. The shooting guard had 8 assists. He'll be crucial on both ends of the floor against Spain, just as the hosts' Quino Colom will be for his team. Spain's point guard played more than anyone against Montenegro and was a steadying influence. Vazquez (Iberostar Tenerife) and Gasper Vidmar (Banvit) faced each other in the Basketball Champions League Final earlier this year. The experience of both pivots will be vital in this encounter.
Key Stats: Colom, who had been in the reckoning for a spot on the rosters of past Spain teams, enhanced his reputation with 15 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in 27 minutes and 50 seconds of action at Montenegro. Prepelic made 3 of 4 shots from deep against Spain at the EuroBasket and as a team, Slovenia were 14 of 25. Against Belarus, Slovenia finished 5 of 22 from long range.