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Basketball World Cup: Slovenia Outplays Australia and Improves to 4-0

A balanced scoring effort led by Luka Doncic and an effective defense carried Slovenia to victory, securing a spot in the Basketball World Cup quarterfinals.

OKINAWA CITY ― Slovenia opened the fourth quarter with a 15-4 run in a FIBA Basketball World Cup second-round game and clamped down on Australia's potent offense to earn a 91-80 victory.

Luka Doncic led Slovenia with 19 points and had seven rebounds and six assists. He had six turnovers and was whistled for his fourth foul late in the third quarter. Slovenia coach Aleksander Sekulic gave Doncic a rest with 2:25 to play in the third in order to not risk having his superstar foul out with so much time remaining. Slovenia was ahead 62-53 when Doncic left the game.

Doncic, a four-time NBA All-Star, was on the bench at the start of the fourth quarter. He returned to the game with 7 minutes remaining. Slovenia led 73-64 at that point.

Mike Tobey added 18 points and 12 rebounds for Slovenia, which improved to 4-0 at the Basketball World Cup. Point guard Klemen Prepelic chipped in with 11 points and shooting guard Gregor Hrovat poured in 10. Jakob Cebasek and Aleksej Nikolic scored nine apiece.

Eight Slovenia players made at least one 3-pointer and the team finished 13-for-42 from beyond the arc.

Basketball World Cup
Australia guard Josh Giddey (FIBA.BASKETBALL)

For Australia, Josh Giddey had 17 of his 25 points in the second half along with eight rebounds and four assists. Fellow NBA player Patty Mills had a 17-point outing but was held to three points in the final two periods. Teammates Dante Exum and Josh Green finished with 13 and eight points, respectively.

Australia (2-2) was coming off a 109-89 victory over Japan in the teams' final Group E game on Tuesday.

Basketball World Cup
Slovenia's Luka Doncic dribbles as Australia's Josh Giddey guards him in the fourth quarter. (KYODO)

Slovenia Overcomes Doncic's Foul Trouble

Looking back at the game, Doncic affirmed his faith in his teammates, saying he trusts them to make plays, including when he's not on the floor.

"I got three fouls with 8 minutes to go in the second quarter," Doncic noted, citing one of the game's defining traits.

He added, "They were double-teaming me every possession and everybody made the right plays, so we stayed together and we're a great team, I think."

Slovenia Avenges Loss to Australia at Tokyo Games

For Slovenia, Friday's clash with Australia was a rematch of the third-place game at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the Boomers triumphed 107-93. 

Slovenia raced out to a 28-18 lead by the end of the first quarter.

Australia faced a 49-40 deficit entering the third quarter.

Doncic's club led by as many as 19 points in its gritty victory. Slovenia had a 10-4 edge in second-chance points. What's more, its bench players outscored Australia's reserves 35-24.

"It was a very hard game," Doncic commented after the game. "Australia had to win no matter what, we went into the game like we had to win no matter what. They have a great team, great players, but I'm really proud of how we played today ― everybody together and we just stayed together."

All 10 Slovenia players who received court time put points on the board. It demonstrated that the European squad isn't a one-man team. 

After the game, Australia coach Brian Goorjian noted, "The other players beat our guys off the dribble one-on-one."

Up next: On Sunday, September 3, Australia meets Georgia (4:30 PM JST) and Slovenia faces Germany (8:10 PM) on the last day of the second round at Okinawa Arena.

It's just a shoe!

The Last Word

In his analysis of the game, Sekulic said: "Our guys deserve credit for how we dominated the game, even though Australia sometimes they look scary. … It was a great game, great teamwork."

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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