SAPPORO (FIBA World Championship
) - Shipeng Wang's buzzer-beating three-pointer gave China a 78-77 triumph over Slovenia in a thriller on Thursday to place the Asian Champions in the last 16 of the FIBA World Championship.
With six seconds remaining in Sapporo, a Uros Slokar lay-up gave Slovenia a 77-75 advantage and the Europeans looked to have secured the win.
But Wang ran all the way to the other end and buried the biggest shot of his career, and arguably the most important shot in Chinese basketball history to give his side the second triumph of the tournament and more importantly, a trip to Saitama.
The points were the first Shipeng had scored in the game.
Slovenia, who led until midway through the third quarter, can still reach the final round but need Italy to beat Puerto Rico later on Thursday.
"We had an excellent game ," said an ecstatic China coach Jonas Kazlauskas.
"I told my players that if they fight for the last minute it was possible and we did it.
"For sure, God helped us and this qualification means a lot for us."
Yao Ming once again proved key in the crucial stages of the game to make sure Slovenia didn't pull away.
The big center had a game-high 36 points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
Slovenia, competing in their first-ever FIBA World Championship, controlled the opening half and went into the break with a 46-38 lead – despite appearing tired from a gruelling week of games in Japan.
Jaka Lakovic buried the first three-pointer of the game with seven minutes played to give his team a 17-11 lead.
Slovenia's attempts to pull away early on were halted by Yao, who scored his team's next 11 points as China limited the damage 22-19 early in the second quarter.
China struggled from the perimeter and had four consecutive failed attempts from behind the arc before Uros Slokar and Sani Becirovic showed them how it's done, as Slovenia took a 33-19 lead with 14 minutes played.
Wei Liu's jump shot ended Slovenia's 11-0 run much to the relief of Kazlauskas.
China finally got hot with Feng Du and Wei making three-pointers to put their team just 40-31 behind four minutes before the break.
Feng and Zhizhi Wang's big threes pull the team closer 48-46 four minutes into the third quarter before Yao's three-point play gave his team the lead for the first time in the game.
Beno Udrih's three allowed Slovenia to take a 59-57 advantage going into the final quarter.
Primoz Brezec scored his team's first four points of the final quarter to give Slovenia a 63-62 lead before Yao replied with a three-point play to keep China in the game.
Slovenia went on a 5-0 run and it was Zhizhi's five consecutive points that made it 70-70 with less than three minutes played.
Sani Becirovic's lay-up made with 1:17 remaining put Slovenia in front at 74-70 before Fangyu Zhu hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 74-73 with 47 seconds left.
Zhu then fouled Becirovic, who made one of two from the line to put his team ahead at 75-73 before Yao tied the game at 75-75 with 30 seconds left.
Slovenia coach Ales Pipan could not hide his disappointment.
"We controlled the game but in the end we forgot one player who shot a big three-pointer," he said.
"It's a terrible result for us but we hope that Italy will win so we can qualify for the last 16.
"Italy is a better team than Puerto Rico so we are hoping that they will show it on the court." By Cindy Garcia-Bennett