LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — Greece rallied with a big fourth quarter to beat defending champion Spain 79-75 in the second round of the European basketball championship on Thursday.
And Italy’s undefeated run came to an end against host Slovenia.
Trailing by five at the end of three quarters, Greece outscored Spain 27-18 in the fourth to notch a win that could prevent Spain from winning a third consecutive title.
“We controlled the rhythm, we made our shots and we had luck on our side,” said Greece guard Kostas Sloukas.
Vassilis Spanoulis led Greece with 20 points. Rudy Fernandez and center Marc Gasol both had 20 for Spain.
Earlier, Croatia used its size to rout Finland 88-63 for its first victory in the second round.
Guard Goran Dragic scored 22 points as Slovenia beat Italy 84-77. His brother Zoran added 15 as the brothers scored all nine of Slovenia’s points in the last two minutes of the game, including a 3-pointer by Goran with 17.5 seconds left. Goran added 10 rebounds, while Mirza Begic had four blocked shots.
Italy was the only team to finish the group stage with a perfect 5-0 record, but fell in its first second-round game against an inspired host team carried by the partisan crowd.
Because group results are carried over into the second round, Italy has a 2-1 record, the same as Slovenia, and still has to play Croatia.
“It is going to be difficult for us to qualify (for quarterfinals),” Italy coach Simone Pianigiani said.
Italy was unable to compensate for the lack of size against the bigger Slovenians, who scored 46 points in the paint, compared to 22 for Italy.
“They are a smart team but we played very good defense. We had 44 rebounds, they 29, that was the key,” Goran Dragic said.
Slovenia coach Bozidar Maljkovic agreed: “Those 10 rebounds were very important. That’s why we won the game.”
Greece was down by 10 at the end of the first quarter, but used the absence of Gasol in the second quarter to take the lead, 41-38 at halftime. Gasol
collected three personal fouls in the first quarter and sat out the second.
“Marc plays 40 minutes in the NBA and never fouls out, he knows how to take care of himself. I don’t know what happened here,” Spain coach Juan Orenga said.
Gasol returned in the third, scored 11 straight points, and Spain outscored Greece 19-11 to regain the lead 57-52.
Spanoulis then scored five straight to put Greece back up by one. Gasol made two free throws to leave Spain down by four, but forward Mikhail Bramos nailed a 3-pointer with one minute remaining to score the vital points that secured Greece’s victory. Spanoulis made four consecutive free throws to offset a 3 by Alex Mumbru and Greece cruised home.
“We are still walking in hell and we have to keep walking,” Greece coach Andrea Trinchieri said.
Greece and Spain have 1-2 records.
Croatia’s big men dominated the boards as the team pulled down 47 rebounds, while Finland finished with 30.
Damjan Rudez made five of eight 3-point attempts and finished with 17 points.
Croatia’s defense also shut down Finland’s top scorer, Petteri Koponen, whose first points came when he made a 3-pointer at the buzzer of the third quarter. He finished with five points.