By Yarone Arbel
|37-year-old Goran Jagodnik has been around the block many times in his long career and can identify the exact moment, or split second rather, it all started going wrong for Slovenia|
The EuroBasket is a long tournament, but in the case of Slovenia it looks like one single shot, an act of a split second, can make a huge difference.
The last game in Group D between Slovenia and Russia saw the Slovenes lead the entire game, until a very tough shot by Russia's Sergey Monya went through the net with 0.2 seconds to play and gave Russia their first lead of the game.
Slovenia finished second in the group, behind Russia, and arrived to Vilnius with a 1-1 record.
Since then it's been all trouble for the team of coach Bozidar Maljkovic.
First came a 69-60 loss to Greece to complicate things further.
On Saturday night the snowball accelerated with a 68-59 loss to F.Y.R. of Macedonia.
Both losses were by nine points, but that margin doesn't describe accurately the true face of Slovenia in those two games.
They're the first to admit they're playing very bad, and the way they look is more worrying than the final score.
37-year-old power forward Goran Jagodnik has lived through all kinds of scenarios with clubs and national teams and it seems like Slovenia, more than anything else, could use some words of wisdom right now.
"We're just not playing together. Something went wrong after the game against Russia, because we played good before and in that game as well," he says.
"If that shot by Monya hadn't gone in we'd be in a totally different place now.
"Since then things started to go down the hill and we have to pick it up if we want to make it to Kaunas."
For Jagodnik, it's clear what the cure to this problem is.
"We need to play again like a team and do a good job on defense.
"In the last two EuroBaskets we had very good energy, that's what we brought to the floor and that's how we made good results.
"We need to get that energy back if we want to make recover."
Yet the experienced Jagodnik has another idea to share.
"The way out of this spiral is to stay focused and get a win that will get us back on track.
"We still have a chance, if we win the next game we'll be in the Quarter-Finals and then anything can happen.
"Once you make that stage it's all about momentum and anything can change in our favour.
"That's why it's so important for us to be there.
"It will allow us to gain confidence and focus on the deciding games."
With three losses in a row there's only one last hope for Slovenia now.
On Monday they will play against the underdog Finland in a winner-takes-it-all game.
"We have no right to under-estimate Finland. Look at what they have done so far at EuroBasket 2011.
"Where are Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro?
"They are all at home because Finland was better than them, and now they beat a team like Georgia."
"If we don't want to find ourselves packing already on Monday, we have to be 100% ready for Finland and give them the respect they have earned."
On Monday afternoon the two teams will take to the floor and fight for the last spot in the Quarter-Finals.
These two teams that most probably didn't expect to be in this situation, each from another state of mind, but the anything-can-happen EuroBasket2011 created one for them.
For Slovenia anything but a win will be a disaster.
Jagodnik and co. will need to handle that pressure in order to get the ticket to Kaunas.