Game Hero: Although it's hard to argue against Rudez's amazing impact in overtime and Bojan Bogdanovic's game-high 24 points, Ante Tomic was a towering presence under the basket and collected 15 good-as-gold rebounds.
Stats Don't Lie: Slovenia were 2-for-14 from beyond the three-point arc during the final quarter and overtime against Croatia's defence, shooting 27% in the entire 45 minutes of play. Croatia had just two turnovers in regulation and would not have come back from 13 points down in the third if they were not so careful with the ball.
|Bojan Bogdanovic was unstoppable, bagging 24 points|
Croatia overturned a 13-point third-quarter deficit and prevailed 76-74 in overtime over their neighbours Slovenia, inflicting a first loss in four games on the EuroBasket 2013 hosts.
Slovenia took the initiative almost from tip-off in the Group C derby at Celje Arena, where one could cut the tension with a knife.
After Domen Lorbek, with Dario Saric's long hands in his face, beat the shot-clock with an amazing shot from eight metres out, Bostjan Nachbar split two free throws to give the hosts their first double-digit lead, 29-19, with 6:19 left to play in the second quarter.
Croatia did not consider abandoning their 2-3 zone defence and were rewarded with a 12-3 burst, capped by a Bojan Bogdanovic dunk which reduced the gap to one point, 32-31.
A buzzer-beating Uros Slokar put-back lay-up after Jure Balazic missed a three-pointer attempt from the corner, put Slovenia 41-35 ahead at the interval, but the hosts were still unable to shake off their persisting neighbours.
They seemed to make some headway when Goran Dragic sunk a triple with 8:35 left in the third quarter to spark a 9-0 run, that saw the hosts grab a 50-37 lead midway through the period.
Croatia stayed faithful to their zone.
"That was our game-plan to stop the Dragic brothers from penetrating and let Slovenia take long shots," said Ante Tomic.
"In the end, we were right.
"They missed a lot of open shots and we won the game."
Roko Leni Ukic hit a three to reduce the lead to 57-48 with 3:05 remaining in the period and initiated a 13-0 Croatia run, which culminated in them pulling ahead, 58-57, on a Dario Saric three-pointer on their first possession in the fourth quarter.
Edo Muric sunk a triple and then dunked in the open court after a rare Croatia turnover to put the hosts up, 65-64, with 56 seconds remaining in regulation.
Croatia misfired twice, but Tomic emerged to grab the second offensive rebound, was fouled and split his free throws to level the scores at 65.
"It's great to play in this atmosphere, with all the crowd against you.
"It's a motivation in itself."
A Nachbar three-point attempt with 3 seconds remaining did not drop in, and the derby went into overtime, where Rudez's first triple, followed by one from Bogdanovic within the opening minute, enabled Croatia to start off the extra period with an 8-1 run and effectively seal the win.
"It's a great feeling right now, but if we don't win tomorrow [against the Czech Republic], we go home," Tomic concluded.