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Cebasek's lone field goal sees Slovenia stun Croatia in Zagreb
ZAGREB (Croatia) - The neighborhood derby went down to the wire, and Jakob Cebasek picked a perfect time to hit his only field goal of the game - a three-pointer while being fouled, to give Slovenia a 76-74 win in Zagreb.
The game featured 11 lead changes, but once Cebasek made his shot, Slovenia did not look back, keeping their composure to start the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers with a win.
Turning point: Lovro Gnjidic scored his only points of the game from the free-throw line to give Croatia a 69-68 lead with just over a minute left to play. Slovenia did not panic, played their offensive set until they found an opening on the right wing. Cebasek launched his sole three-pointer, knocked it in, while also being fouled by Pavle Marcinkovic.
Cebasek only played 10 minutes in this one, he completed the four-point play to put Slovenia up 72-69. Croatia almost tied it again when Filip Bundovic's three-pointer went in and out, they had another chance at -3 with 16 seconds left, but Bundovic committed the offensive foul - Klemen Prepelic putting his body on the line, preserving the win for Slovenia.
Game heroes: The Olympians led the way for coach Aleksander Sekulic. Klemen Prepelic had 16, Jaka Blazic scored 15, Edo Muric 14 with 10 rebounds, Luka Rupnik was also in double figures with 11, and Cebasek had his game-winning moment at the end.
Stats don't lie: It was a tough and physical game, Slovenia made the most of it by getting to the free throw line. The FIBA EuroBasket 2017 winners went 35-of-43 from the stripe, giving them a +20 advantage over Croatia's 15-of-20.
Bottom line: Slovenia have a huge chance to take the lead of the group already on Sunday, when they play host to Sweden, who defeated Finland. Croatia will try to avoid an 0-2 hole in Finland.
They said: "It was really tough, we anticipated this kind of game as the first of qualification. We are two teams who don't know each other so well, we didn't know what to expect because they have changed a lot of things around and showed they have really good young players. It was a really physical game, there were a lot of free throws, it was tough for us to find a shooting rhythm and they packed the paint, but eventually, we fought our way to the win." - Slovenia head coach Aleksander Sekulic
"Congratulations to Croatia because they are a young team and they gave us a big fight on every possession. In the end we found our way thanks to our experience, I think this is what decided the game. Cebasek [who scored the dagger] is a guy we know can make big shots, he has been with us since the summer and we trust him in these situations." - Slovenia guard Klemen Prepelic
"Right now I can immediately remember three mistakes that I made personally, we had a few of those mistakes so lack of concentration for sure is to blame. But on the other hand, I am proud of this young team that is playing together for the first time this kind of big games and during big stretches, we did an excellent job attacking their defensive weaknesses, I am really proud of each guy on the team." - Croatia forward Pavle Marcinkovic
"Congratulations to Slovenia and their coach for the victory, and to my players for playing a good game and for showing hustle. We fought from the beginning to the end but we had a few moments when we lost our momentum, and in those moments Slovenia gained an advantage." - Croatia head coach Veljko Mrsic