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Croatia, Slovenia and Italy advance to Euro quarterfinals

The Canadian Press

9/14/2013 8:23:00 PM

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia -- Slovenia powered into the quarterfinals of the European basketball championship with a 73-65 victory over Greece on Sunday, with point guard Goran Dragic scoring 28 points.

Slovenia joined Croatia in the last eight and its victory allowed Italy to advance as well, despite its 76-68 loss to Croatia.

The host team nearly blew a huge lead but held on to send the home fans into a frenzy in Stozice Arena.

Spain, the defending two-time champion, cruised past Finland 82-56. Spain, with two wins and two losses, plays Italy (2-2) in its final second-round game. Greece and Finland also still have a chance of making it to the last eight.

Greece (1-3) plays Croatia (3-1), and Finland (1-3) goes against Slovenia (3-1).

From the other group, France, Lithuania and Serbia have already advanced.

Dragic scored his team's first 11 points, before his younger brother Dragan scored the next four to set the tone for the game.

Goran Dragic's impact was huge, at both ends of the court. After making one free throw, the NBA player grabbed an offensive rebound and dished out an assist for Nebojsa Joskimovic's 3-pointer that put Slovenia up by 20 early in the third quarter.

The lead quickly grew to 26, and Greece suffered even worse when forward Kosta Papanikolaou limped off with an ankle injury midway through the quarter.

"It's a very bad ankle sprain," Greece coach Andrea Trinchieri said. "We came back with desire and passion in the second half but we missed the chance to close within three and that was that."

While Goran Dragic had a rest in the fourth, Slovenia's lead melted to six by the time he returned.

He stole the ball and put in a layup -- his only points in the fourth quarter -- to make it 70-62. Greece missed three straight 3-point attempts and Jaka Lakovic made three of four free throws to keep Slovenia ahead.

Goran Dragic also had five rebounds and four assists, while his brother added 11 points.

"We had a huge lead but it wasn't over," Goran Dragic said. "We knew they don't like to play fast, especially in the first two quarters. The key was our rebounding."

Slovenia coach Boza Maljkovic said his team's 21 offensive rebounds made the difference. "We played well for 26 minutes, then we went down and I didn't like it."

Vassilis Spanoulis led Greece with 21 and eight rebounds.

Croatia trailed by 13 early and was down by five at halftime but outscored Italy 26-9 -- including a 10-0 run -- in the third to go ahead for good, holding off a late rally.

Shooting guards Bojan Bogdanovic and Krunoslav Simon had eight points each during the run and point guard Roko Leno Ukic scored six straight to spark Croatia's comeback.

Bogdanovic finished with 18 points, while Luigi Datome had 24 for Italy.

"I don't think we need to lose any confidence now. We lost the games against Slovenia and Croatia but we were not dominated and we don't need to fear Spain," Datome said. "The crucial moment was the third quarter, they went 10-0 and turned the game around."

Italy cut the deficit to four with 2:44 left to play but Marco Cusin missed a dunk, Bogdanovic grabbed the rebound and Simon hit a jumper before sinking two free throws to end Italy's hopes.

Croatia got 21 points from its bench, compared to seven for Italy.

Jose Calderon led Spain with 23 points, while Petteri Koponen had 17 for Finland.

Spain had 15 more rebounds and 10 more assists than Finland, which dropped to 1-3.