The Slovenia Times

Slovenia win FIBA World Cup opener

the Slovenian basketball team.
Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA
File photo
Led by NBA superstar Luka Dončić, Slovenia defeated Venezuela 100:85 in their opening game at the FIBA World Cup in Okinawa, Japan, on 26 August. Dončić scored 37 points, a World Cup record for a Slovenian player.

Dončić, the biggest draw for the capacity crowd at Okinawa Arena, added 7 rebounds and 6 assists to his tally in 31 minutes of play. Naturalized American Mike Tobey scored 21 points and 5 rebounds, and Klemen Prepelič chipped in 18 points and 5 rebounds.

The first half was close with Venezuela leading 33:31 after the first quarter, having scored 9 three-pointers in the first 10 minutes.

At half time Slovenia were only five points ahead (56:51) but then built up their lead to 78:63 by the end of the third quarter, and maintaining their lead in the final period.

Garly Sojo was the top scorer for Venezuela with 16 points.

Defence has been Slovenia's weakest point since the preparations for the World Cup, something that was evident in the first half. Facing Georgia in their next matchup on 28 August, the team will have to correct that.

"Venezuela showed what we already knew; that they are an experienced, physical team with talented attacking scorers," Slovenia head-coach Aleksander Sekulić commented after the game.

"When we adjusted our defence, the percentage of those shots went down and the difference on the scoreboard went up. For me, this fact that we were able to adjust is the most important lesson of today's game, besides the two points," he added.

"We knew it wouldn't be an easy game because we played Venezuela two years ago," Slovenia captain Dončić said, pointing to the fact that Venezuela hit nine threes in the first quarter.

"But we fought until the end and chalked up an important first victory. Even though we scored 51 points at halftime and 85 at the end, our defence was not that bad, but we definitely have a lot of room for improvement in this segment," Dončič added.

This Slovenia's 13th win out of their 24 World Cup matches.

Slovenia were crowned European champions in 2017, finished fourth at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and sixth at the 2022 EuroBasket and can look back at two World Cup quarter-final berths in the past, in 2010 and 2014.

This time expectations are somewhat subdued due to recent injuries in the team, which has ended up without Vlatko Čančar of the NBA champions Denver Nuggets and Edo Murić, the previous captain.

Still, Slovenia are a clear favourite in Group F, where Georgia have defeated Cape Verde in their opener. The results from the preliminary play will carry over into the second round, where Slovenia would face the two best teams from Group E (Germany, Finland, Australia, Japan) to vie for a top-2 finish that leads to the quarter-finals in Manila.


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