Great Britain will go into the European Championships on the back of six successive defeats after suffering a 100-46 thrashing by Spain on Thursday in Zaragoza in the final game of their build-up.
Although GB had admirably stood toe to toe with their hosts for three quarters in Wednesday’s 80-67 defeat in Murcia, they were in trouble almost from the tip-off in Zaragoza, Spain’s stars shone brightly – Marc Gasol hit 17 points in 20 minutes on court, 15 of them in the first half, including a three, and also dished off assists that Rudy Fernandez (11 points) and Ricky Rubio (11) would have been proud of.
Against that, GB had no scorer in double figures, although Andrew Lawrence had nine points and Myles Hesson added seven. GB scored 19 baskets in all – only two of 24 attempts from behind the arc – and were outclassed.
It was the biggest defeat suffered since the GB programme was revived in 2006, and the lowest offensive tally.
However Andrew Lawrence, who had a team-best nine points, insists the side can rebound by their arrival in Slovenia ahead of their EuroBasket opener with Israel next Wednesday.
“Give them a lot of credit – they played very well today,” he said. “And we weren’t up for the challenge. But we’re still a confident, tight-knit unit.”
GB found the shots that had dropped in their exhilarating first game against the Spaniards missing, putbacks that had dropped in Murcia rimming out and the young team’s rhythm suffered as a result against a team schooled in capitalising on opponents’ mistakes.
It was 25 minutes before Kyle Johnson hit GB’s first three of the night – they were 28 points down by that stage – and although Hesson added another immediately, 35 of the next 41 points were scored at the GB end.
“It was a tough game all around – their players are all NBA players or top of the Euroleague players,” added Lawrence. “I thoroughly enjoyed it. Obviously it’s not the result we wanted, but it was good to be out there and compete with them.”
GB’s bright start, with a tough drive for two from Lawrence and a jumper from Gareth Murray, got losts as Gasol drove Spain on an 18-4 run with six personal points and a pair of assists.22-14 up after the first quarter, Spain had more in store in the next 10 minutes.
Gasol’s three was the highlight of a 16-4 Rubio-inspired run that started the second period and Spain, with Gasol, Rubio and Fernandez combining for 28 of Spain’s 49-30 lead.
Spain hit a 10-2 start to the second half, with only a Sullivan dunk to keep GB ticking over. Although Gasol sat down with a fourth foul, GB’s 10 points in the quarter again demonstrated their lack of scoring as a closing 20-4 burst added to the annihilation.
“At the end of the day we can’t just accept that we’re a young team,” said GB coach Joe Prunty. “(Assistant coach) Nate Reinking had a great comment. He said ‘guys, Eurobasket is five games in six nights, you have to be ready to play every night.’”
“Spain are the number two ranked team in the world so I’m not surprise that they can get to that level and give them credit for being as good as they were today.”
“The first game is always different, said Fernandez afterwards. “We know they have a new team, and they are missing a lot of good players, but Prunty is a very good coach so they can compete in the Eurobasket.
“Last night we probably didn’t play aggressively enough, but tonight we were more aggressive on defence. We tried to run and run our fast break better.”
Prunty is set to confirm his final 12-man squad for Slovenia on Friday with either Ali Fraser or Devon van Oostrum likely to miss out.
The friendly was marred by jeering of the British national anthem before tip-off by a small number of fans with banners also in evidence in the crowd bearing political slogans about Gibraltar. Both British Basketball and the Spanish Basketball Federation declined comment.
Notes: GB starters: Lawrence, Johnson, Murray. Sullivan, Boateng. Spain: Lliull, Claver. Rodriguez, Fernandez, Gasol
There was pockets of jeering of the British national anthem – and banners being waved about Gibraltar by Spanish fans. Neither Federation would comment on the incident.
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