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Slovenia beats Dominican Republic, faces USA in quarterfinals

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The Dragic brothers once again came through for Slovenia, energizing the team, running like crazy and eventually securing the victory. Wtih it, Slovenia becomes one of 8 best teams in the world cup, squaring off with team USA in the quarterfinals.

Starting the game, it was obvious Slovenia was still reeling in the aftermath of the loss against Lithuania in the final game of the group stages, but they did manage to compose themselves and beat Dominican Republic in the end, spurred on by the Dragic brothers (not really news but still) who led the team in scoring and hustle, at one point spurring Slovenia on to a 19-point run.

First period

Starting the game, Dominican Republic was playing well with no pressure while Slovenia was still feeling the ill effects of the loss against Lithuania, struggling to get on the board, making bad plays, missing wide open shots (Goran was 0/3 in the first with two fouls committed) and generally not playing like themselves. The bench was playing in no time but all they managed to do was even the score at 15 all at the buzzer on a great coast-to-coast drive by Jaka Klobucar.

Second period

Slovenia still couldn't find an answer for some great ball movement by the Caribbeans led y James Federline who already had 10 points and DR was up by 7 early in the second. A time out seemed to finally focus the Slovenians, especially Zoran Dragic (looking more and more destined for the NBA) and Uroš Slokar who got his 9th point during an 15:0 run that was led by The Dragon brothers with lightning quick sprints and nifty moves at the rim. Also, suprisingly, Slovenia was winning the battle on the boards 24:11 at the half. The score was 38:28 at the halftime break.

Third period

The Dragic brothers picked up where they left off in the second period, rewarding the good defense by Slovenians with great counter-attacks led by Goran who finally looked like the Dragon we've come to expect. Eager not to fall behind, Zoran fired an NBA three to even the points scored by the brothers at 10 all. At 51:36, Dominican Republic was ready to crumble, but they fought back valiantly after most of our starting five was getting some rest and the game was again close at  54:48 going into the fourth.

Fourth period

Reminiscent of the godawful fourth period against Lithuania (shrugs), Slovenians couldn't hit sand falling off a camel were unable to score in the early minutes of the final period. DR made it a 2 point game when finally Klemen Prepelic broke the curse of the fourth period 3-point blues with a long range shot that went in, pushing the score to 57:52 with 6 minutes left to play.

Ronald Ramon answered right back with a three of his own, but the jig was up, shots were falling for Slovenia, their legs looked much fresher and after Goran got a steal and followed it with another crafty shot at the rim in the next possession to make it a 10 point game, the game was put away. Final score was 71:61 for Slovenia, thus making them one of top 8 teams at this incarnation of the FIBA World Cup.

Summary

Slovenia secured a place in the quarterfinals against one of the only top two contenders for the title, team USA.

Goran was struggling early on and had some trouble starting the last period as he was double and triple-teamed at times, but still managed to score 12 points (shooting 6/12 but missing all four of his long-range shots) and dish out 6 assists while grabbing 2 rebounds in 27 minutes of play.

For the second time in this tournament, his younger brother had a better night, scoring 18 points (8/15, 2/5 for three), grabbing 3 rebounds and 4 steals in 34 minutes, all the while guarding the best opponents on the court.

Going forward, Slovenia gets ready for a game they can't have no business winning on Tuesday. Maybe the lack of pressure will loosen the scoring troubles and we can look forward to at least frustrate the most athletic team in the tournament.

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