Tough start for defending champs: Perl, Hungary take down Slovenia in closing seconds
SZOMBATHELY (Hungary) - Defending FIBA EuroBasket champions Slovenia had a five point lead and possession with less than two minutes to go in Hungary, but the hosts put together a comeback to hand the title-holders a defeat to start the qualifying campaign.
Zoltan Perl played the role of the hero, hitting clutch free throws in closing seconds to give Hungary a 77-75 win, setting up the usual scene when we see Stojan Ivkovic's men singing of the national anthem with help from the packed stands in Szombathely.
Turning Point: Slovenia opened up a 71-66 gap and had a chance to put more daylight between the two teams with 100 seconds to go. But Benedek Varadi came up with a steal that started a 6-0 run, capped by a Varadi three-pointer to give Hungary the lead in the final minute of the game. Jordan Morgan and Rosco Allen traded layups before Klemen Prepelic got to the foul line and gave Slovenia another lead at 75-74 heading to the last 10 seconds.
Ivkovic ordered his players to space the floor and put his trust into Perl, the hometown hero. The 24-year-old used his long strides to get into the paint and draw a foul, knocking down both shots with 4.5 left to play. Slovenia's chances of winning went to waste as Jaka Blazic turned the ball over on a catch under his own basket...
Game Hero: Rosco Allen (16 points) and David Vojvoda (15 points) did their usual part for Hungary, but the night belongs to the Szombathely-born Perl. Falco Szombathely's guard finished the game with 15 points on 5-of-9 shooting, 6 assists and 4 rebounds.
Stats Don't Lie: Hungary shot just 33.3 percent from deep, but that looked amazing compared to Slovenia's 6-of-31 from three-point range. Take out Luka Rupnik's three made shots, and it's 3-of-25 for the other nine guys who saw minutes in coach Radovan Trifunovic's team.
Bottom Line: Protecting the home court was the recipe for Hungary when they made it out of the Qualifiers for FIBA EuroBasket 2017, and it seems to be goal here, again. Defending champs Slovenia will try and do the same in Koper, against Austria, in a game coming up on Sunday.