By Simon Wilkinson
Turning point: Erazem Lorbek hit a three-pointer from the top of the key early in the third quarter to put Slovenia up by 17, 47-30, and at the other end, Primoz Brezec swatted away Stefan Markovics lay-up attempt to let Serbia know it just wasnt going to be their day.
Hero: Bostjan Nachbar made big buckets time and time again to end Serbias several attempts to rally back. Whenever Duzan Ivkovics men came too close, you could count on the swingman to hit a clutch basket.
Stats: 33 that was Serbias shooting percentage as they scored only 29 points in the first half. They made just eight of 22 attempts from two-point range and three of 11 from beyond the arc.
Slovenia used a three-point barrage to take a 13-3 lead and never looked back as they cruised past Serbia 80-69 in EuroBasket Group C.
Jaka Lakovic buried two three-pointers and Bostjan Nachbar knocked the other one - despite being defended closely - to set the tone as Slovenia took their first double-digit lead just three minutes into the game.
That pretty much set the tone for what was to come the rest of the way as Jure Zdovc's side never trailed and led by as many as 18. The win saw them remain undefeated (2-0).
|A day after beating the defending world champions Head Coach Dusan Ivkovic and Serbia could not figure out Slovenia.|
"This is a great result for us as it means we are pretty much assured of advancing to the next round" said Nachbar, who finished with a game-high 17 points and proved to the hero, hitting big buckets time and time again to end Serbia's several rally attempts.
"We knocked our shots and I think on defense we did a very good job of taking them out of their comfort zone. We made them work hard for everything they got."
The win was made that much sweeter as captain Matjaz Smodis, who missed the opener against Britain because of back and knee injuries, made his return to the line-up.
He checked into the game in place of Erazem Lorbek with 4:17 left in the third quarter, much to the delight of Slovenia's contingent of fans. He finished with four points, all on free-throws.
"It was great to have him back. He is such a great player and a leader for this team. We're happy to see back out on the court," Nachbar added.
Serbia got within 18-15 when Milos Teodosic and Kosta Perovic ran the pick and roll to perfection, the latter catching the lob and making the basket plus the free-throw with 2:44 left in the first period.
That would be as close as they would get though as Nachbar and substitute Samo Udrih scored the next four points for a 22-15 advantage heading into the second quarter.
Goran Dragic took over at that point, scoring eight of his 10 first-half points to help Slovenia go up 31-17 with just under six minutes left before the break.
The back-up guard hit a long three-pointer and then knocked the ball out of Milan Macvan's hands near midcourt, before going in for an uncontested lay-up. He later used his quickness to knife his way into the defense for another deuce.
Serbia, perhaps still suffering from the effects of their big win over Spain on Monday, couldn't get their shots to fall and scored only two points in the first 3:40 of the second quarter.
They closed to within 35-27 when Uros Tripkovic hit from beyond the arc and Nemanja Bjelica outjumped the whole of Slovenia's defense for a putback and a free-throw.
But Slovenia did not relent as Jaka Lakovic and Nachbar knocked down jumpers to re-establish a 10-point cushion, 39-29, at the intermission.
Serbia made just 11 of their 33 field goal attempts over the first two quarters. In comparison, Slovenia shot 60 per cent (15 of 25 overall, including six of 12 from three-point range).
The second half was pretty much a formality. Primoz Brezec scored his first points of the game on a lay-up before Nachbar and Erazem Lorbek connected from downtown for a 47-30 lead.
Serbia trailed 60-44 at the start of the final period and got within 11, 68-57, on Nemanja Bjelica's three-pointer with about five minutes left to play, but at the other end Nachbar blew past him for an uncontested dunk.
Erazem Lorbek and Dragic sealed the game from the free-throw line.
Afterwards, Serbia head coach Duzan Ivkovic conceded his team were outplayed.
"I think the Slovenian team was better. For sure, they deserved this victory. I think we weren't prepared. After yesterday, our rhythm wasn't there. Slovenia controlled the game better," he conceded.
"Their field goal percentage was very high in the first half and at the end of the game."