ATHENS (FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament for Men) - Slovenia sent out a loud message about their intentions of claiming a spot at the Beijing Games with an 86-70 rout of Canada on the second day of the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Athens.
Jaka Lakovic poured in 16 of his game-high 19 points in the first quarter and Slovenia shut down Canada to earn a place in the quarter-finals.
Canada, who got 16 points from veteran guard Rowan Barrett, must now beat Korea on Wednesday to clinch the other last-eight place that goes to Group C.
"We still have the goal in front of us, it's still achievable," Barrett said.
"We just have to regroup, stay positive and come and get the win tomorrow."
Slovenia trailed 15-9 just past the midway point of the opening quarter but finished the frame with a 27-22 lead.
They led by as many as nine in the second quarter before taking a 41-34 lead to half-time.
By the end of the third quarter, Slovenia had extended their advantage to 64-49 and there was no way back for their opponents, with Pipan's team putting the clamps on the Canadian shooters.
Canada were just four of 13 from long range and 20 of 47 inside the arc.
"A lot of their game is based on outside shots, so we were really focused on not letting them get into a comfort zone," Slovenia captain Rasho Nesterovic said.
Meanwhile, Slovenia gave Canada fits with their pick-and-roll and constant ball movement.
Nesterovic is hoping that there will be no doubters in Slovenia, now. The national team won three games at the Alpos Cup in Maribor and have now clinched two straight wins in Athens.
"Every year, we have a better and better group of guys, and it's much easier to play when you have 12 guys who are willing to do something that is needed to reach our goal," Nesterovic said.
"We need to forget these two games, though. This was our goal, but now we have to get ready for Friday."
Canada must get ready for Korea.
"We have a few new components in our team, but I think we're better than what we showed today," Barrett said.
Slovenia were so good on Tuesday that Lakovic, the Barcelona point guard, only played close to 21 minutes.
Sani Becirovic is the other veteran playmaker in the team and he had 15 points.
Everyone was outstanding at the line, with Lakovic a perfect eight of eight and Becirovic 11 of 11.
Nesterovic had 14 points and nine rebounds while Uros Slokar scored 10 and grabbed five boards.
Ales Pipan got a huge lift from his bench, with Emir Preldzic showing his great promise with eight points.