By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
Jaka Lakovic buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to give Slovenia a 69-68 triumph over Italy in the team's Group D opener in Alicante.
The Italians thought they had won the game when Matteo Soragna's three-ball gave his team a 68-66 lead with five seconds remaining.
But the Slovenian guard had the last say.
|Matteo Soragna led Italy with 16 points in the loss.|
"I had no time to think and that's why I made the shot," said a delighted Lakovic.
Slovenia almost shot themselves on the foot, having led 60-47 with five minutes left to play, they allowed Italy to take a 64-63 lead with one minute left on the clock.
"At that point I thought that we didn't have the character to win big games or to kill games off," said Matjaz Smodis, who led Slovenia in scoring with 19 points.
"In the end, we showed that we do have that character and that today's victory was merit of what we had done in the previous three quarters."
Smodis scored nine points to help Slovenia establish a 21-14 lead by the end of the opening quarter.
Slovenia then stepped up their defense and limited Italy to just two points over the next four minutes to extend their advantage to 28-16.
Lakovic's three-ball gave Slovenia their biggest lead at 38-23.
Matteo Soragna's layup allowed the Azzurri to go into the break trailing 38-25.
Italy made just one of 10 from outside the arc in the first half.
The Azzurri emerged from the changing room a different team with an 11-0 run at the start of the third quarter cutting the Slovenia lead to 38-36.
Angelo Gigli scored seven points in that surge.
But their opponents hit right back with a 16-4 run of their own as Smodis continued to provide many of the points.
Slovenia went into the last quarter leading 56-45.
Ales Pipan's side limited Italy to just two points over the next five minutes to take a 60-47 lead.
Massimo Bulleri ended Italy's drought by scoring the next three points.
Bulleri remained heavily involved and his three-point play cut the deficit to 62-61 with less than two minutes remaining.
"Perhaps not all of us are on the same boat," said Bulleri, who had a game-high 20 points, 11 of which came in the last quarter.
"But the will is there."
"We must show more focus in offense and defense tomorrow."
Slovenia were superior shooting the ball from three-point range, they were five of 17 (29%) while Italy were four of 22 (19%).