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Eurobasket > Greece faces Slovenia tonight September 14, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Basketball.
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Coach expects further improvement from his players for place in Eurobasket semifinals > Greece’s coach Panayiotis Yiannakis told reporters yesterday that his team was beginning to find its rhythm.

Through to the Eurobasket quarterfinals, despite displaying just glimpses of its full potential, defending Champion Greece tonight encounters Slovenia, a team whose undefeated run in the tournament was broken by Lithuania in the last round of group play Wednesday night.

“We’ve reached the knockout games; this is crunch time… We’ve reached this far even though we haven’t played good basketball so far,” Greece coach Panayiotis Yiannakis admitted during a news conference yesterday. “Tomorrow [today] we take on Slovenia, a very tough opponent that has won a few games by the slightest of margins, which has boosted their psychology. They play tough and fight for every little detail,” he continued.

In a game that pitted the tournament’s two remaining undefeated sides against each other, Slovenia lost to Lithuania, 80-61, on Wednesday to end second in Group F. Greece ended third in Group E.

In the first of two quarterfinal games played last night, Russia beat France 75-71 to advance to the semifinals. Lithuania, the only unbeaten team left in the tournament, was due to face Croatia later in the evening.

In tonight’s other quarterfinal, host and world champion Spain meets Germany. Should Greece make it past tonight’s encounter, it will meet the winner of this game in the semifinals.

Despite his words of concern about Greece’s level of play so far, Yiannakis said he believed his team had begun to find its true rhythm, as was suggested by the encouraging 85-67 win over Portugal in the European champion’s closing group game Tuesday.

History, Yiannakis said, indicated that the Greeks tended to improve as tournaments progressed. He cited last year’s Worlds in Japan, where Greece was the runner-up after losing heavily to Spain in the final, as an example.

“We averaged 15 errors in the group-stage games but, if we don’t include the final, did not exceed seven errors in the knockout games,” Yiannakis recalled. “We need to be calm and clear-minded to achieve good ball distribution.’

Slovenian shooting guard Jaka Lakovic, formerly of Panathinaikos and now at Barcelona, remarked, “We’re going to have to pour our hearts out onto the court” for victory tonight.

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