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Luka Dončić
Young Luka Dončić concluded the match with a statistical index of 22, second best after Anthony Randolph (25). Photo: EPA

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Plan to crush Ukrainian resistance ASAP executed to perfection

Six wins in a row is Slovenia’s longest sequence at European championships
10. September 2017 ob 12:26
Istanbul - MMC RTV SLO

The Slovenian basketball team has made its way through the knockout stage of the EuroBasket with great confidence. The breakthrough among the best eight teams was under no threat, Ukraine did not measure up to being an equal opponent (79:55).

We always see things from a different perspective once the match is over. We were not afraid but we prepared thoroughly and concentrated on the match. We didn’t allow ourselves to have a bad day, we had to give all we had. Kudos to the expert staff, who did an excellent analysis. When players sleep, they work. We knew Ukraine’s advantages and disadvantages; we had played against them before. The players have shown true desire. Although many mistakes were still made, the approach was the right one. In general, I’m satisfied with how we carried out our plan. We also got to try out the arena for the first time,” explained the Slovenian head coach Igor Kokoškov, who is on a winning streak. This is his 12th official won match in a row, and the 6th consecutive victory for Slovenia, its longest series at European championships.

Assistant coach Jaka Lakovič, who was in charge of analysing Ukrainian play, instructed the Slovenian team to stick to its game, with aggressive pressure on point guards, which prevented Ukraine from keeping up with the rhythm. The plan was executed to perfection. The Slovenian “machine” warmed up quickly, with Ukranians unable to follow. Slovenia kept the initiative and was slowly increasing the lead. In the 3rd quarter, the lead rose to more than 20 points. Luka Dončić showed an excellent performance in offence, which motivated his co-players; in defence, Jaka Blažič was breathing down the neck of Ukraine’s guard Denis Lukashov. Goran Dragić did his part in offence as well as defence, too. Aleksej Nikolić, who stepped in later, also added his share, prompting Ukraine’s “play” to collect three personal fouls as early as first quarter.

Prepelič in good shape
Gašper Vidmar fought excellently with tall Ukrainians under the basket. Three Ukrainians centres rotated in the first six minutes of the match to defend against Vidmar. Ukrainian Artem Pustovyi, who entered the game in the 5th minute, tried with two quick personal fouls against the Ljubljana-born centre.

With Klemen Prepelič scoring in the 8th minute, Slovenia got into the two-digit-number lead for the first time. In the first ten minutes, Slovenia collected 17 points and did its first personal foul only 26 seconds before the end of the match. 24-year-old Prepelič is in good shape and plays consistently well in offence. Together with Dončić, he proved to be Slovenia’s second best shooters – after Anthony Randolph with 14 points – by scoring two three-pointers and three assists.

Slovenia will learn about its opponent in the Tuesday’s quarterfinals on Sunday. It will be either Latvia or Montenegro.

Tilen Jamnik, MMC; translated by K. Z.