By Simon Wilkinson
Turning point: Spain looked fresher in the overtime period. Slovenia used all of the energy at their disposal to send the game into overtime but faded away in that final frame.
Hero: While his team ended up on the losing end, Gordan Dragic was a hero as he spearheaded the furious fourth quarter comeback by harassing Spain's ball handlers, getting six steals and turning them into easy baskets.
Stats: With Spain's offense clearly stagnant, Juan Carlos Navarro took it upon himself to get some easy points. He finished with 12 free-throw attempts, 10 of them coming in the fourth quarter. He single-handedly prevented Spain from falling behind.
Spain had to work overtime in order to edge out Slovenia 90-84 and finish with a 2-1 mark in EuroBasket Group C.
The Spaniards handed Slovenia their first defeat of the tournament and, in the process, secured their place in the Qualifying Round.
The world champions led 64-51 early in the final quarter, but Slovenia outscored them 27-14 the rest of that period,
sending the game into overtime on Erazem Lorbek's fadeaway jumper that just about beat the buzzer.
|Rudy Fernandez had 19 points and five rebounds in the win.|
With Spain up 78-75, Ricky Rubio grabbed Goran Dragic with a second left to play, sending the Slovenian guard to the line. He made the first free-throw and intentionally missed the second.
Lorbek was in the right place at the right time as he grabbed the offensive rebound and beat the buzzer with his short step back jumper from the right baseline.
However the extra session wasn't quite as entertaining. After faltering in the final frame, Spain got their second wind while Slovenia were too tired following their impressive rally.
Felipe Reyes made a pair of free-throws to break the deadlock and his team slowly pulled away, going up by six, 87-81, when Pau Gasol scored on a putback off Rudy Fernandez's missed three-pointer with just over two minutes remaining. There proved to be no late rallies this time around for Slovenia.
Afterward, Spain head coach Sergio Scariolo admitted his team hadn't reached the fitness needed but is hopeful they are on the right track.
"When you have really bad physical condition, in the fourth quarter you lose intensity, concentration. According to the improvement of our physical condition, we will be able to improve. Hopefully we will improve enough to have 40 or 50 minutes in peak condition."
The game was close early on with Slovenia leading 20-18 at the end of the first quarter, thanks to 12 points from Primoz Brezec.
The Spaniards made their move in the second quarter, with Marc Gasol tying the game on a lay-up and then beating a double-team to find Sergio Llull in the opposite corner and the 21-year-old guard buried a three-pointer to put Spain back in front, 23-20. He added another long bomb minutes later for a 29-22 advantage.
Slovenia fought back and edged in front 33-32 as Bostjan Nachbar went coast to coast for a lay-up over Pau Gasol and made the free-throw for a three-point play.
That lead proved to be short-lived though as the Spaniards finished the half strong, scoring 11 of the last 14 points for a 43-35 advantage at the break.
Spain kept pouring it on in the early part of the third quarter, going up by 13, 48-35, on Rubio's three-pointer.
Jure Zdvoc's side got a huge lift from reserve Goran Jagodnik, who started the second half in place of Brezec and scored eight quick points before Nachbar capped an 8-2 run to cut the deficit to 50-43.
Fernandez took over at the end of the period, going on a personal 6-0 run to help Spain head into the final frame up 62-49.
The fourth quarter looked like a mere formality when Fernandez's lay-up made it 64-51. But Dragic turned it around for Slovenia.
The guard, who finished with 19 points and six steals, proved a constant headache for Spain, stepping into the passing lane to snatch the ball away and then sprinting down court for several fastbreak lay-ups as part of a 12-0 run that got the Slovenians within one, 64-63.
Despite their offense being stagnant, Spain somehow held on to the lead until Lorbek's buzzer-beating shot tied the game.
Juan Carlos Navarro was the main reason for Spain staying on top as he drew foul after foul and hit nine of 10 free-throws in the fourth quarter alone.
Rubio stole Erazem Lorbek's pass, intended for his brother Domen, with just under two minutes to put Spain up 74-68. Dragic made a lay-up to cut the deficit to 75-72 with 14 seconds remaining.
Both teams proceeded to foul and Spain were up 78-75 on Fernandez's made free-throw with seven seconds remaining before Slovenia's smart play sent the game into overtime.