|10 September 2011|
Preview by Yarone Arbel
GROUP F - SATURDAY AT 18:00 (17:00 CET)
|Slovenia Head Coach Bozidar Maljkovic expects a tough game and wants his players to improve from the free throw line and pass the ball faster than they did against Greece |
If someone told you before the EuroBasket tipped off that Slovenia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia will meet in the Second Round, that would have made good sense.
If that same person had told you the first team will hold a 3-0 record, have the quarter-final ticket in their pocket and arrive to the game with a five-game winning streak while the other with a 1-2 record, two losses in a row and still in hope to make the next round, that might have made sense too.
Yet if you were told the first team was F.Y.R. of Macedonia and the second Slovenia, chances are you would have trouble believing it.
Slovenia will host EuroBasket 2013, which is the big target for success of course, but their level of expectation is still high already now.
The disappointment in Slovenia's camp after the loss to Greece matches these hopes, and the fact it was a close game down the stretch isn't a comfort.
For this reason the importance of the Saturday game becomes so big.
Slovenia needs this win not only to be back on the winning track after back-to-back losses and earn the ticket to Kaunas, but also to regain confidence and good momentum.
The two teams met already during the preparations for the EuroBasket, with F.Y.R. of Macedonia missing both Bo McCalebb and Todor Gecevski, and Slovenia won after a hard battle.
F.Y.R. of Macedonia punched their ticket to a historical quarter-finals with the close win over Georgia.
Coach Dokuzovski mentioned after the game how difficult it was for his team to play as the favourites with the pressure on their back.
Against another traditional powerhouse, with the ticket to the next phase secured and no Independence Day celebrations, F.Y.R. of Macedonia will once again enjoy a day on the floor with less pressure.
Luckily for them if pressure still bothers them, or any other problem surfaces, they still have Mr. McCalebb.
Head-to-Head: The two teams have met four times in the past, all in qualification to the EuroBasket. F.Y.R. of Macedonia won the first encounter but saw Slovenia better them in the following three, including a 103-82 win in the last game more than 10 years ago.
Last Time Out: Slovenia almost upset Greece but lost 69-60 and fell to a 1-2 record. F.Y.R. of Macedonia edged Georgia 65-63 thanks to a clutch lay-up by Bo McCalebb.
Key Match-Up: Goran Dragic and Bo McCalebb are two of the top point guards in this championship. Dragic is tall and athletic. McCalebb is small and quick. The first tallied so far 8.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.8 assists but once his three-point shot will go in, he can kill any team. Bo stands on 21.7 points, 4.2 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals.
Key Stat: Slovenia hit six out of 25 attempts from the arc against Greece, including an awful shooting performance in the first half. To beat F.Y.R. of Macedonia they will have to do better than that.
X-Factor: Can Mirza Begic repeat his performance against Greece? The giant Slovenian had a great night with eight points, 14 rebounds and three blocks. So far in the EuroBasket after every good game came a drop. Slovenia will need him to keep his level up against the opposing big guys.
Sounding Off: "F.Y.R. of Macedonia is not worst than Greece. They have experienced players, which are smart and they have McCalebb. I expect a really tough match. We can't shoot so bad from the free throw line and we must pass the ball much quicker than we did against Greece," says Slovenia Head Coach Bozidar Maljkovic.