By George Georgakopoulos
Greece came from behind to upset Spain in Slovenia, winning 79-75 in its first game in the second round at Ljubljana and increasing its chances of reaching the knock-out stages of the Eurobasket.
The national team was considerably improved on its previous two games, when it lost to Italy and Finland, to peg the reigning European champions down. Its resolve and passion proved insurmountable for Spain, whose quality is second only to the United States.
Scoring 79 points against the tournament’s best defense speaks volumes of the feat the national team has performed in this game. Greece had not beaten Spain for 11 years.
Spain was actually far superior in the first period, leading 26-16 at the start of the second after temporarily advancing by 12 points. The poor defending and the high number of missed free throws cost Greece at that point.
However the Greek team left behind its 1/6 three-point record in the first 12 minutes of the game to make six out of seven three-pointers and turn the game on its head in the second quarter, with Greece leading by up to six points (40-34) and by three at half-time (41-38).
The Spaniards committed a high number of turnovers (17 against Greece’s six in the end) that the White-and-blues made the most of.
The third period was a case of Spain vs Giorgos Printezis, as the Olympiakos forward was the scorer of all seven of Greece’s points in the first eight-and-a-half minutes of that quarter, with Spain ending up five points on top after 30 minutes (57-52).
The players of coach Andrea Trinchieri played a much more determined game in the last quarter to regain the upper hand by tightening up their defense while producing some fresh ideas in attack near the basket through Vassilis Spanoulis and Yiannis Bourousis.
Greece overturned an eight-point disadvantage (60-52) to lead 68-64 and 75-68 just before the end, that saw the Greeks celebrate with more relief than joy on their faces, having redeemed themselves from the losses to Finland and Italy.
This win will also serve as a major boost ahead of the next game, on Saturday evening against host Slovenia – the only other team to have beaten Spain in the tournament.
Spanoulis was the top scorer for Greece with 20 points, while Bourousis and Printezis notched up 10 each, although the eight points that Mike Bramos scored were instrumental to Greece’s victory.