|06 July 2007|
Jan Mocnik's free throws with 6.4 seconds saved a near meltdown by the co-hosts Slovenia, who beat rivals and defending champions Serbia 80-78 in their opening Group A match at the U20 European Championship Men on Friday.
Serbia had a chance to win the game but Nikola Dragovic's potential game-winning three-point attempt from the left wing drew the front iron.
"It was a tough game but we won, and that was our plan. In the end we lost a bit of concentration but it didn't matter. We won and that's most important," said Slovenia's Jaka Klobucar, who led all scorers with 22 points.
"Now we can push for our plan, which is to reach the semi-finals."
On Mocnik's big free throws, Klobucar said: "He's great and has great concentration. I knew he would make them."
|Milos Teodosic's 21 points were not enough for Serbia|
Mocnik, however, had missed one of two with 20 seconds left to give Serbia a chance to finish off their comeback against the 2006 bronze medallists in Izmir.
The game was a real battle from the start with the teams going back and forth throughout the first half. Slovenia made four three-pointers in the first quarter in pulling ahead 19-16.
Serbia pulled ahead 30-27 with 4:52 to go in the first half, but Slovenia tightened the defence and and outscored them 12-0 to go into the locker-room ahead 39-30.
Dragovic buried two three-pointers as Vlada Vukoicic's team fought to within a basket at 46-44 with 5:30 in the third. But Slovenia again finished strong with a 13-7 run for a 59-51 advantage after three quarters.
Slovenia were ahead 12 points - 71-59 - with four minutes left only to see Serbia made a final push. Dragan Labovic to had a three-point play and two foul shots to cut the deficit to six - 71-65 - with 2:19 to play.
After Mocnik hit four straight free thows to up the lead to 77-69 with 1:12 to play, Dragovic hit a three-pointer and Marko Djurkovic scored after a steal of the in-bounds pass to make it a 77-74 game.
Preldzic turned over the ball and Labovic hit an inside layup for a one-point game with 23 seconds left. After Mocnik made one of two, Slovenia sent Milos Teodosic to the line with 8.1 seconds left, and the play-maker made both to even the game at 78-78.
Gasper Vidmar scored 17 points and Preldzic added 15 and Mocnik had 12 points and six assists.
Teodosic scored 21 points and had six rebounds and six assists while Labovic had 19 points and Dragovic added 18 in a losing cause.
In Group A's second game, Hungary proved tough resistance for the first half before France finally woke out and wore them out 92-66.
Hungary led 11-4 early and 20-19 after one period and only trailed 35-31 at the break. But Michel Gomez's French team came out of the locker-room a different side, ripping off a 16-4 run to take over the game.
France were ahead 60-47 after three quarters and pushed the lead to 19 points - 75-56 - midway through the fourth as Hungary were clearly over-matched the rest of the way.
Aaron Gel paced the French with 23 points while Aurelien Salmon added 16 and 11 rebounds and Nando De Colo had 12 points, five rebounds and seven assists for Les Bleus.
Hungary were led by Jozsef Kekli with 12 points and Balazs Mate had 11. But Akos Peresztegi Nagy's team committed 28 turnovers and were out-rebounded 38-30.
The French play co-hosts Slovenia on Saturday after which Hungary face defending champions Serbia.