Arizona’s Pelle Larsson misses key shot but plays key role for Sweden in 84-81 loss to Slovenia | Bruce Pascoe’s Blog



Arizona Daily Star Bruce Pascoe

Arizona’s Pelle Larsson missed a potentially game-winning 3-pointer with six seconds left but played a key role on the bench for Sweden in their 84-81 loss to Slovenia in a game qualification for the FIBA ​​World Cup 2023 on Sunday in Stockholm.

In what was only his second game with the senior Swedish team, Larsson finished with seven points and four rebounds in 24 minutes while often guarding NBA star Luka Doncic, who had 31 points and 10 rebounds for the Slovenia. (Larsson, wearing the No.9 jersey, can be seen keeping it often in this highlight video from Doncic.)

Pelle Larsson (#9) of Arizona has been tasked with guarding Luka Doncic often against Sweden.


FIBA


Larsson did not start the game but was on the field throughout the fourth quarter when Sweden erased the 70-61 lead Slovenia held late in the third quarter.

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Sweden led 79-77 with 2:43 remaining, but then Slovenia looked to have regained control of the game with 17 seconds left, as Slovenia led 82-81 and Zoran Dragic blocked a 3-pointer from the Swede Ludwig Hakanson.

Doncic bounced back but threw an errant pass which was intercepted by Sweden’s Melwin Pantzar 10 seconds from time, and the ball was returned to Larsson on the right wing.

Larsson’s shot was short, however, bouncing off the front of the rim, forcing Sweden into a foul. Goran Dragic then hit two free throws and a desperate shot to Hakanson’s half court missed the buzzer.

Still, Swedish coach Mikko Riipinin offered his support for Larrson in the post-match press conference.

“He was there today and I think he really showed everyone that he can play at this level,” Riipinin said of Larsson. “Having him take this photo without hesitation is very important to us in our future and we will live and die with this photo.”

Goran Dragic also went out of his way to compliment Larsson when asked about the Swedes during the Slovenia press conference.

“I love that young boy #9,” Dragic said, referring to Larsson. “I said, ‘I like the way you play. Keep your head up.’ “

This victory secured a place in the second round of the World Cup qualifiers for Slovenia (4-2). Sweden (2-4) were still able to advance later on Sunday when Croatia lost to Finland 81-79. Finland (4-1) received 19 points and seven rebounds from former Wildcats forward Lauri Markkanen while ending Croatia’s World Cup bid (1-4).

Meanwhile, UA center Oumar Ballo and his Malian teammates haven’t played at all this weekend. Mali’s players failed to show up for matches scheduled for Friday and Saturday, reportedly because their basketball federation failed to pay their allowances, and were disqualified under FIBA ​​rules after the second forfeit.