Croatia Basketball Beats Slovenia to Open Olympic Qualifiers in Greece

Daniela Rogulj

Photo by HKS

July 3, 2024 – In the first game of the Olympic qualifying tournament in Athens, Croatia convincingly defeated Slovenia 108-92.

Croatia gained a capital advantage in the first quarter with a 31-13 lead. They entered the second with +15 (31-16) and kept the opponent within striking distance with a smart game.

Luka Dončić woke up in the second quarter, but Croatia had solutions and eliminated all threats. Ivica Zubac stood out, scoring 14 points with 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the first half, and Croatia went into halftime with a 13-point lead (54-41).

Zubac scored the first points to open the second half for +15 (56-41). Slovenia then woke up and with a 5-0 streak, made it 61-51. Croatia responded strongly. Smith, Zubac and Hezonja lead Croatia to +19 (67-48).

With that result, 14 minutes from the end, Zubac earned his fourth personal foul. Slovenia could have taken advantage of this, but the fantastic Goran Filipović with two three-pointers brought an incredible 21-point lead (74-53). With a score 81-60 for Croatia, the match was interrupted due to a clock malfunction.

Fortunately, the unplanned break did not slow down the spirited Croatian machine. Filipović immediately let it be known with a three-pointer that Croatia is still hot, young center Danko Branković followed up on his cheerful play, Dario Šarić continued to excel and in the blink of an eye, it was +25 for Croatia (89-64). In the final 10 minutes, it was 93-68. Croatia’s advantage grew to +29 (102-73). The final five minutes of the game were spent in a show-stopping tone until the final score of 108-92.

Dario Šarić scored 19 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Ivica Zubac excelled and scored 18 points with 8 rebounds and 5 assists in less than 19 minutes on the court. In addition to 21 points, Goran Filipović had 4 rebounds and 6 assists, and he made 6 out of 7 three-pointers. Mario Hezonja recorded 12 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 3 steals. Danko Branković scored 15 points in 12 and a half minutes with 2 rebounds and 2 steals. Jaleen Smith was also excellent, scoring a three-pointer when Slovenia came close to (61-51), and added 11 points, and 3 rebounds and assists in the victory.

Next up is New Zealand on Wednesday, July 3, starting at 4:30 pm.

Croatia plays in Group A with Slovenia and New Zealand. They cross over with Group B, which includes Egypt, Greece, and the Dominican Republic. Both groups play close to Athens, in Piraeus. Only the winner of the tournament will qualify for the Olympic Games. In Group B, the Dominican Republic beat Egypt 90-77.


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