The Slovenia Times

Slovenia fail to qualify for the Olympic basketball tournament

Slovenia's national men's basketball team, led by Luka Dončić (first from right). Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

Slovenia will not appear in the basketball tournament at the Paris Olympic Games, having been routed by Greece 68:96 in the semi-finals of the FIBA qualifying tournament in Piraeus. To qualify, they would have to win the tournament.

Having already suffered a loss at the hands of Croatia earlier in the tournament, they were overpowered by Greece on 6 July, cheered on by the capacity home crowd.

Slovenia's captain, NBA superstar Luka Dončić had 21 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 10 turnovers and one steal, with Josh Nebo, the new naturalised player, contributing another 17 points and 7 rebounds. No other team member managed over 9 points.

After a bad start, Slovenia could not recover. They were down 23 points midway through the second quarter, which made a 14-point deficit at half-time bearable.

In the second half, Greece looked like they were playing only as hard as absolutely necessary to save their strengths for the 7 July final.

In the third quarter, Greece's head coach Vassilis Spanoulis did not even put in the team's superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, but they were around 20 points ahead all the time. In the last quarter Greece built up their biggest lead of 31 points.

Their top scorers were Thomas Walkup (19) and Vasileos Tolipulos (17), while Antetokounmpo only played 20 minutes to have 13 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block.

"Greece are a great team that deserved to win. They have a whole bunch of great, Euroleague players in addition to the NBA superstar, and they proved that today," Slovenia's head coach Aleksander Sekulić said after the game.

"Our bad start gave them an extra boost and the gap quickly grew. At times we had the balance, but in front of such a crowd and such a team, the deficit could not be reduced. Although we fell short of our goal, the tournament was a good school for some young players who will be the backbone of this team in the future," he added.

"Congratulations to Greece. They were better, more rested, more aggressive," Dončić said. "They have an amazing team. Obviously, they have Giannis, but other pieces are important for them, too. And they are very well coached, so congratulations to them. They outplayed us today," he admitted.

"Defeat is a failure, because we came here for the Olympics," he said, adding: "It's been a long and hard season for me, I admit I'm very tired and at the same time I realise that I could have given more of myself in a different situation. Now I will have a well-deserved rest and next year I will be back in action at the European Championships."


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