Slovenia overpowered by Canada in FIBA World Cup quarter-finals
Slovenia's dreams of their first ever World Cup semi-finals were thwarted by Canada, who won 100:89 in the quarter-finals on 6 September in a thrilling game marred by ejections. Slovenia will now compete for 5th or 7th place.
The European-North American face-off delivered a tense first half in which the two teams were neck and neck, the gap between them never reaching double digits. Slovenia's NBA star Luka Dončić was on a roll, but so was Canada's NBA point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who powered his team into the final four and was declared MVP of the match in the end.
At the second quarter buzzer, the score was 50:50. Canada were showing superior accuracy when it came to two-pointers and they did a good job limiting Dončić's influence on the court, but the Slovenian was still effective, making several impressive shots.
The second half was a whole new ball game, with Slovenia battling hard for nearly every point while Canada seemed to cruise to an increasingly bigger lead. At the end of the third quarter Slovenia's hope was reignited when they managed to reduce the gap to a nine-point deficit, but they were unable to push it further in the last minutes of the game that were also quite dramatic due to several ejections.
First, Canada's Dillon Brooks was ejected from the game, reportedly for mouthing off to Klemen Prepelič. Dončić was disqualified not long after due to two technical fouls - he picked up both for complaining to the referees, and then Gregor Hrovat fouled out.
Even though Slovenia went on an 8:1 run after Dončić's exit, Canada remained composed to make it to their first ever World Cup semi-finals.
Dončić, the tournament's top scorer, finished with 26 points, four rebounds and five assists. Prepelič was also on fire, scoring 22 points, but no other player on the team's roster scored in double-digits.
On the opposite side, Gilgeous-Alexander had 31 points, 10 rebounds and four assists. His teammates' contribution was also massive, with R.J. Barret adding 24 points and eight rebounds. Canada was better at rebounding 38:30, another segment that tipped the scales in their favour.
This was Slovenia's third quarter-finals apperance at World Cup tournaments and Canada's first. The latter are one of the favourites for the top spots, having a line-up full of NBA players.
"Regardless of the defeat, I'm proud and more than happy with our performance at the World Cup. We had a lot of issues with injuries, also during the tournament itself, we are missing key players, but we showed a kind of play that many, including me, did not expect," said Slovenia's head coach Aleksander Sekulić.
Dončić congratulated Canada on their win, noting that they played a "very physical game, while having one of the best players in the world in their ranks," a reference to Gilgeous-Alexander. "Despite the defeat, I'm proud of my teammates for giving their all," he added.
Canada will now take on Serbia in the semi-finals on 8 September, while Slovenia will aim to improve on the seventh-place finish from Barcelona in 2014, facing Lithuania first on 7 September. They will compete for one of four 2024 Olympic Games spots in a last-chance tournament in July next year.