Australia Boomers lose in World Cup opener

LIAM FITZGIBBON
Last updated 06:35 31/08/2014

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Australia's bid for a maiden basketball World Cup medal has suffered an early setback after opening with a 10-point loss to Slovenia.

Led superbly by Phoenix Suns NBA star Goran Dragic, Slovenia impressed in a wire-to-wire 90-80 victory in Saturday's Group D encounter in Gran Canaria, Spain.

San Antonio centre Aron Baynes shone for Australia, equalling Dragic's game-high haul of 21 points while grabbing seven rebounds, but the Boomers suffered from some poor execution in attack and sloppy defending at times.

The defeat comes as a blow to Australia's hopes of topping the group but they don't have to wait long for a chance to get their campaign back on track.

Andrej Lemanis' side faces South Korea in its second group game on Sunday (2130 AEST).

Despite missing their two biggest stars, Patty Mills and Andrew Bogut, a Boomers squad blending exciting youth and experience has talked up its chances of winning the nation's first ever medal at the quadrennial event.

With four of six teams reaching the knockout phase, the Boomers will still be favoured to progress but Saturday's outing left plenty of room for improvement.

Slovenia started strongly and were always in control in the first half as the Boomers struggled to deal with Dragic's creativity and accuracy from outside the arc.

The Boomers trailed by 13 points midway through the second quarter but fought back well to cut the deficit to 49-43 at halftime.

Baynes was instrumental in keeping the Boomers in the match, though his intensity boiled over on one occasion when he was fouled for elbowing Jure Balazic while in possession.

Joe Ingles' 10 first-half points were also crucial but the Boomers were never able to get any real momentum going.

Australia came out firing in the second half, clawing back to within one point on the back of some crucial baskets from veteran David Anderson (14 points).

However Slovenia, who also had handy contributors in Domen Lorbek (13 points) and Zoran Dragic (10), pushed back out to a comfortable lead, ensuring they were able to fend off a late rally as Australia fought back from 16 points down to briefly threaten a late comeback.

Exciting talent and Utah Jazz NBA draft pick Dante Exum had a quiet World Cup debut, failing to score in around 11 minutes off the bench, while Brad Newley had 13 points for Australia.

In the other Group D game played, Angola defeated South Korea 80-69.

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