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Slovenia vs Puerto Rico
2006 FIBA World Championship, Sapporo, Japan
23/08/2006Game Report, Slovenia vs Puerto Rico 90 - 82, GROUP D

SAPPORO (FIBA World Championship) - Slovenia stormed out to a big early lead and then held off Puerto Rico to snap a two-game losing skid in Japan.

Having suffered back-to-back defeats to Italy and Team USA, the Slovenians scored 19 of the game's first 21 points and ultimately claimed a 90-82 victory.

Led by a phenomenal Jaka Lakovic, Slovenia went into the break with a 52-33 lead.

Slovenia stayed  in front but Puerto Rico battled and when Carlos Arroyo was fouled by  Primoz Brezec while attempting a three-pointer, he made two of three from the line to cut the deficit to 80-72.

But Lakovic buried his sixth and final three-pointer with a minute and 20 seconds remaining to kill Puerto Rico's hopes of a comeback.

Lakovic, who finished with a game-high 24, had 14 points in the opening half and was four of five from behind the arc after just 17 minutes.

"Offensively, we sticked to the plan and executed well in the first half to build an advantage," said Lakovic.

"It was then a matter of concentration, we kept our focus until the end and that was the most important thing."

Rasho Nesterovic opened the game with a lay-up and Lakovic followed with a three-pointer as Ales Pipan's men poured in the game's first 11 points.

Larry Ayuso stopped the rot with a three-pointer for Puerto Rico's first basket with 6:45 to play in the first quarter, but Lakovic replied with two more shots from the arc as Slovenia scored the next six points for a 19-3 lead.

Slovenia kept up the pressure and played with the same intensity to take a 27-17 lead going into the second quarter.

Peter Ramos' lay-up cut the deficit to 27-22 with 12 minutes played but that was as close as Puerto Rico got as Lakovic and Primoz Brezec inspired their team to a 13-0 run to take a 40-22 midway through the period.

Daniel Santiago's three-point play cut the deficit to 67-55 going into the final quarter but they  mountain was too high to climb. 

"We missed a good chance today," said Puerto Rico coach Julio Toro.

"The players didn't give the ideal effort against Slovenia and I am surprised. We attempted to get back into the game but we didn't have it in ourselves today.

"Now we must look to our next game which is a very important and hard game for us."

Arroyo led his team in scoring with 21 points while Ayuso added 20 in defeat.

Puerto Rico take on Italy on Thursday while Slovenia face China.

By Cindy Garcia-Bennett
FIBA