Great Britain’s men completed their EuroBasket qualifying campaign with a 75-66 defeat to Ukraine in Dnipropetrovsk, ending up with a 6-2 record in the standings.

With Chris Finch’s men already assured of a spot in Lithuania next summer, victory would have been enough to assure the visitors of first place in the group.

And, with 18 points and 10 rebounds from Pops Mensah-Bonsu heading the way, it proved enough. Macedonia’s 81-73 defeat to Bosnia in the final fixture in Group B left GB with the joint-best record from the qualifiers along with Belgium and Montenegro, boosting their seeding for the draw.

Britain paid for poor inside shooting in the first half, showing only glimpses of the form that saw them sweep past the Ukrainians two weeks before. Dan Clark hit all 5 of his points in the opening spell that saw his team take an early 14-8 lead.

However a 10-1 run put the hosts 18-15 up at the end of the first period and they would never again trail as GB let down their guard. Although a three-pointer from Luol Deng capped an 8-0 burst that cut the gap to 27-26 with 4.09 left in the second, Ukraine resisted the pressure.

Valencia forward Sergei Lischuk – who ended with a game-high 21 points – hit four three-throws to pull the home team away while a trey from Oleksiy Onufriyev completed a run of seven unanswered points that extended the cushion to 42-32 at half-time.

Finch did not get an adequate answer to his rallying cry.

Ukraine quickly moved 14 ahead and only Mensah-Bonsu was finding room near the basket. Deng, off-target time and again, struggled to cope with the smothering defence in his way as GB tried to bounce back within touching distance.

The Bulls forward eventually broke out of his slump. He followed a three-pointer from Flinder Boyd with one of his own as the guests trailed 55-49 with 2 minutes of the third left.

The hosts found a higher gear of their own, Dmytro Zabrichenko hitting a long-range jumper that restored a double-digit lead at 60-49 headed into the fourth.

With the Ukrainians edging into foul trouble, could there be one last push from GB?

It came quickly but fizzled out. Nate Reinking followed a three with a 3-metre jumper that brought Finch’s side back to 62-56. An opportunity beckoned to turn up the heat but Sullivan missed two foul shots and then watched Boyd and Deng fail to convert.

The chances went begging and Finch was forced to gamble on leaving Mensah-Bonsu on the court despite his fourth foul. Onufriyev increased the home advantage to 8 but when Deng scored on a fast break, Ukraine took a time out with 5.35 left.

A month of training and travel has left GB weary. This campaign has pushed them to the brink. Boyd, one of the unsung heroes off the bench, has yet to find himself a club but his performances will have done him no harm. He drained a three to make it 64-61. Game on, again.

Then, Mensah-Bonsu impeded Agafonov. Caja Laboral’s summer recruit left the court, his GB duty at its end.

Fouls were now striking at the heart of Britain’s retaliation. Lischuk made it 9-of-9 at the line and then Dmytro Gliebo raced up court to lay the ball in. When he made a single foul shot, seconds later, it was 70-62 and hope for the visitors was fading fast.

It was all but extinguished when the brilliant Lischuk widened the gap to 10 and there was little GB could do.

Two late scores from Reinking – who contributed 12 points – put some gloss but it was a disappointing end to an otherwise satisfying summer.

Deng ended with 17 points and 6 rebounds.

“This was a tough game and we rallied in the second half and gave ourselves a chance to win”, said Finch.

“Flinder [Boyd] gave us some good minutes. Pops brought a lot of energy and triggered our run in the second half.

“We have a lot to be proud of. Not many people gave this team a chance to qualify and we did it through great effort. Our young players played well and gained immeasurable experience from this campaign.

“Next summer provides us with a chance to play against the best in Europe once again. I am looking forward to the 2011 campaign and I know the players are as well.”

Notes: Eric Boateng was not at the game. Devan Bailey made his one and only competitive appearance of the qualifiers, playing 1 minute but missing his sole shot attempt.

Macedonia and Israel also qualify for Eurobasket as the two best second-placed finishers with Georgia missing out on points difference.

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