The fact that tonight’s game was located at the bottom of Group C surprised most basketball fans greatly. Earlier in the competition, Finland and Sweden celebrated significant victories over heavily favored Slovenia and the predicted runner-up Croatia. Just before the start of play in Ljubljana, Lauri Markkanen’s squad beat Sweden 85:69 at home to win the match and advance to the next round of the qualifications.
The Slovenian national basketball team, led by NBA sensation Luka Doni, put on a spectacular performance against Croatia in front of their 12,480-person capacity home crowd at Arena Stoice to make up for missed opportunities. The game was already won early thanks to an incredible 7-minute 20:0 scoring spree in the first quarter, which gave the audience many reasons to cheer. For most of the final 30 minutes, coach Aleksander Sekuli could control his emotions.
They controlled the game in the quarter
It came as no surprise when, at the start of the final ten minutes, all three of them were given a well-earned break. Doni must have made up his mind to deny Hezonja the top-scoring honors with just a few minutes remaining in the game since he cleaned up his stats to complete the game with a double-double of 21 points, 10 assists, and 8 rebounds. Mike Tobey finished with a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic finished with 19 points and 8 rebounds.
With 22 points and 9 rebounds, Mario Hezonja leads the Croatian team and falls just short of a double-double. Ivica Zubac outperformed Bojan Bogdanovic, who only managed 13 points, with 14 points and 7 rebounds. Slovenia won the game 97:69 thanks to a 21:18 margin of victory over Croatia in the fourth quarter.
There is still a chance
Now, to maintain some hope of still making it to the 2023 World Cup, Croatia not only needs to defeat Finland at home on Sunday at 20:00 in Rijeka but also needs Slovenia to triumph in their away match against Sweden, which will be played on the same day but earlier in the day.