World Cup Quarterfinal Preview: USA Vs. Slovenia
Date: Sept. 9, 2014
Quarterfinals: USA vs. Slovenia
Palau Sant Jordi
3 p.m. ET, ESPN
• VIDEO: Coach K on Slovenia
• VIDEO: Stephen Curry Speaks
• VIDEO: James Harden on Slovenia
• VIDEO: Derrick Rose on Slovenia
Victors in convincing fashion over Mexico in their Round of 16 game Saturday, the 6-0 USA team faces 5-1 Slovenia in Tuesday’s quarterfinals round game. It’s a continuation of the elimination round meaning win and advance, lose and go home. The 3 p.m. EDT game will be broadcast live on ESPN.
Having met just two weeks ago in the USA’s final exhibition game that was held in Gran Canaria, Spain, the U.S. captured a solid 101-71 win. Anthony Davis led the way with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots in 18:34 of action; while Kenneth Faried added 14 points and eight boards; Kyrie Irving finished with 13 points; Rudy Gay and Derrick Rose tallied 11 points apiece; and Stephen Curry added 10 points. Playing on his 25th birthday, James Harden added nine points and a game-high four assists. Zoran Dragič led Slovenia with 16 points and Edo Muric added 14 points.
The USA and Slovenia meet for the third consecutive World Cup. The U.S. collected a 22-point (99-77) win over Slovenia in the 2010 FIBA World Championship and posted a 19-point (114-95) victory in 2006.
Slovenia is led by the Dragić brothers, NBA Phoenix Suns standout guard Goran Dragić, who is scoring 16.5 ppg., and guard Zoran Dragić, who is adding 13.2 ppg. Also, guard Domen Lorbek is adding 11.5 ppg., Jure Balazic is contributing 8.5 ppg., and 7-foot center Alen Omić, 8.3 ppg. and a team leading 5.8 rpg.
“They (Slovenia) are unusually good in that they have one of the great guards in the world in Goran Dragić. And his brother (Zoran) is outstanding, too, and with (Domen) Lorbek, those three guys on the perimeter provide probably, outside of Spain, the most experienced perimeter that you have in the tournament. And then you surround them with 3-point shooters. You can have really five guys who can shoot the three, so they have great spacing, they share the ball, half their shots are threes, and they are going to be a tough team to defend. We think they are one of the best teams,” said USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who is now 72-1 since leading his first USA national Team in 2006.
The Americans as a team lead the World Cup in scoring averaging just under 100 points game at 99.5 ppg., and Slovenia ranks fourth, scoring 82.7 points a game. The USA is also the number one ranked team in field goal percentage, shooting 52.8 percent in its six games, while Slovenia lists fifth making 49.7 percent.
The USA’s balanced scoring features five players averaging in double-figures and a total of seven guys averaging between 13.8 and 8.8 points a game.
Davis paces the USA offense averaging 13.8 ppg., 6.3 rpg. and 2.1 blocks, while Faried is credited with 12.8 points and a team leading 7.8 rebounds a contest. Adding to the USA’s offense are James Harden, 12.4 points and 4.0 assists a game; Stephen Curry, 11.2 points and 3.8 assists; Klay Thompson 11.0 points; DeMarcus Cousins, 9.8 points and 5.0 rebounds; and Kyrie Irving, 8.8 points and 3.5 assists (USA six game cumulative statistics are available at http://archive.usab.com/misc/14_mwc_USA.pdf).
But as the old sports saying goes, defense wins championships and that certainly is not lost on Krzyzewski.
“I think the main thing I’m happy about is no matter what we’re doing offensively, the defense hasn’t suffered. They continue to play really positive defense,” said Krzyzewski following the win against Mexico.
Defensively, the U.S. is limiting teams to 68.0 points a game, 38.6 percent shooting from the field overall, and 31.5 percent from 3-point. The Americas have forced their opponents into committing a World Cup high 23.7 turnovers a game.
Having claimed the World Championship title in Turkey in 2010, 2014 presents an opportunity for the U.S. to repeat for the very first time. However, history has shown that capturing consecutive world titles is no easy chore. Only two countries, Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (1998 and 2002), have earned back-to-back FIBA world titles since the event was initiated in 1950, and although the United States has won the world crown four times, it has never won consecutive titles.
The winner of the USA-Slovenia game will keep its World Cup title hopes alive and will advance to the Sept. 11 semifinals where it will face the winner of the Lithuania-Turkey quarterfinal game in Barcelona.
Just The Facts: Slovenia
FIBA World Ranking: #13
How Slovenia Qualified: FIBA Europe 5th place (7-4)
World Cup Appearances: 3
Current All-Time World Cup Overall Record: 12-9 (.571%)
World Cup Finishes: 8th (2010); 9th (2006)
World Cup Record vs. USA: 0-2 (77-99, 2010; 95-114, 2006)
Last Senior Team Meeting vs. USA: 2014 MNT Tour (71-101)
2012 Olympic Finish: DNP
2013 Head Coach: Bozidar Maljkovic
2013 Key Players In FIBA Europe Championship: Goran Dragic (15.8 ppg., 3.5 rpg., 4.5 apg.), Zoran Dragic (10.6 ppg., 5.3 rpg.), Bostjan Nachbar (9.1 ppg., 4.2 rpg.).
For more behind-the-scenes video, photos and content, be sure to follow USA Basketball on every social media platform!
Twitter - https://twitter.com/usabasketball
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/usabasketball
Instagram - http://instagram.com/usabasketball