The Slovenia Times

Slovenia open EuroBasket qualifying with double win

Slovenia supporters at a basketball friendly. Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA

Slovenia have successfully opened their qualifying campaign for EuroBasket 2025, defeating Ukraine 87:73 on 22 February, and Israel 88:79 three days later. Slovenia hosted both rival teams in Koper at the seaside.

In the absence of NBA superstar Luka Dončić, Klemen Prepelič, a 31-year-old sharp shooter, took over as the team's captain. He excelled as the top scorer in both games, contributing 30 points against Ukraine and 21 against Israel. Naturalised US centre Mike Tobey added another 20 on Sunday.

The matchup with Israel was held under heightened security after a pro-Palestinian group and more than a dozen NGOs and civil society groups called for the game to be cancelled due to Israel's military campaign in Gaza.

After a scrappy start from both teams, Israel stepped up their game and took a 14-point lead in the first quarter. Slovenia slowly started to close the gap and went into half time with a three point lead (40:37). In the second half Slovenia remained ahead, widening their lead.

"I can't be proud of the start of the game, but I'm all the more happy about the players' reaction to the big deficit. We fought hard to close the gap by the break, and in the second half we played collectively, helped each other in defence and were excellent on the offensive rebound," Aleksander Sekulić, Slovenia's head coach, commented.

"We had aimed for two wins, which we achieved quite confidently. However, we cannot afford to have such bad starts, which take a lot of energy to get back into the game," Prepelič said, adding that all team members deserved credit for the victory.

A few dozen protesters, some of them coming from Italy, gathered for the game in front of the arena, expressing support for Palestine. Security confiscated some banners and Palestinian flags.

Protest in support of Palestine at the sidelines of the Slovenia-Israel basketball match in Koper. Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Slovenia will next face Portugal in the qualifying in November at home and away, before wrapping up the campaign against Ukraine and Israel away in February 2025.

Slovenia are likely to vie for the first spot in the group and are almost guaranteed to qualify for the EuroBasket as the top three teams from each group will advance.

The EuroBasket will take place in Cyprus, Finland, Poland and Latvia between 27 August and 14 September 2025.


More from Sport