LJUBLJANA (EuroBasket/FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Slovenia became the 15th team to book a ticket to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Thursday when they knocked off Serbia
92-74 in 5-8 Classification Round action at EuroBasket 2013.
Zoran Dragic had 23 points and nine rebounds, while his brother Goran added 15 points and five assists as the tournament hosts moved into the Fifth-Place Game which will be played on Saturday. Jaka Blazic had 15 points and five rebounds in the winning effort.
"Of course this means a lot to us," said Domen Lorbek, who was unable to play through injury. "We were able to bounce back from the loss yesterday. It was tough after such a short time. But the crowd helped us.
"Zoran was tremendous and we are very happy to reach the World Cup."
"The preparation for this game was very difficult because there was only 14 hours between the game against France and this one," said Slovenia coach Bozidar Maljkovic.
"No one slept last night, three of four of our players had minor injuries. It was very, very difficult. I want to congratulate my players for their excellent defense. It was not easy to play like that against an excellent Serbian team."
Nenad Krstic paced Serbia with 16 points and four rebounds and Djordje Gagic had a dozen.
"We lost the game in the first quarter and the first half," said Serbia coach Dusan Ivkovic.
"They scored 30 points in the first quarter and 53 in the first half. Our defense was not right. It was like two teams moving at different speeds.
"The second half was much better. The team was close to getting the game back. But it was difficult after they led by 20 points."
Serbia guard Stefan Markovic blamed the defeat on another poor start.
"We started the game as bad as in the Quarter-Final and we could not recover. We tried and tried but could not recover. Now we have one more game on Saturday and all our focus is on that game," he said.
"Everything that we worked for during two months will be judged during that game. We need to show what we practised and what we did during the summer in that game."
Serbia - the youngest team at EuroBasket 2013 - will have one more chance to qualify for Spain 2014 in Saturday's Seventh-Place Game. Their opponents in that contest will not be known until Friday afternoon when the losers of Thursday's two Quarter-Finals square off. The Serbs will then play the losing team of that 5-8 Classification Round game on Saturday.
Ivkovic's side started the game with a 6-2 lead but scored just one basket in nearly seven minutes as Slovenia went on a 26-4 run to take a commanding 28-10 lead. The margin was down to 30-17 after one quarter.
A Serbia surge early in the second period cut the deficit to 33-23 but they were unable to get the Dragic brothers under wraps and despite eight points in the period by Krstic, they fell behind 53-35 at halftime.
After Slovenia increased the lead to 23 points, the Serbs put together a 9-0 run early in the third quarter to cut the gap to 14 points. They even got it down to 13 points at 64-51, but the hosts had pushed the cushion back to 16 points - 77-51 - after three periods.
While Slovenia did not let up, the Serbs got within 15 points on Bogdan Bogdanovic's triple to make it 81-66 with less than six minutes to play. With a World Cup spot on the line, Goran Dragic took over and scored Slovenia's next 10 points and increased the margin to 23 points, 91-68.
For full and in-depth coverage of EuroBasket 2013, go to the official website http://www.eurobasket2013.org.