GB PIPPED BY GREECE

Greece edged out Great Britain 88-84 at London’s Copper Box in a thrilling friendly.

It left Joe Prunty’s side with a 1-5 record in their build-up towards next month’s EuroBasket but there were ample positives to take with resilience aplenty and solid execution, particularly offensively, with Dan Clark leading the way with a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds.

“That was a tough Greece team,” Gareth Murray said. “But it showed we’re improving and how we still need to get better every day.”

In the lone home warm-up tie for Prunty’s side, the hosts – who had lost 72-68 the night before in a closed-door game – used decent ball movement and the weight of Clark to level at 22-22 at the end of the first quarter.

And although their guests used a 10-0 run to pull clear early in the second, Gabe Olaseni and the guard play of Teddy Okereafor gradually erased the deficit before the Greeks edged 46-44 ahead at half-time.

The former European champions, short-handed after a bout of illness this week, learnt during the game that NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss EuroBasket due to injury but their strength in depth and the industrious energy of Nikos Pappas – who had a team-best 20 points – kept up the pressure on a GB side that is still finding its identity around young talents like Luke Nelson and Carl Wheatle.

Progress is coming and the new faces are fitting in.

But there is a notable scrappy streak. Down 58-51 midway through the third quarter, nine unanswered points turned into a 14-1 that put GB 65-59 in front heading into the fourth period.

The heat, inevitably, was elevated by the experienced guests. GB’s composure wavered. Their shots did not fall. An 11-0 burst enlivened the majority Greek contingent in a near-capacity crowd and it took a technical against their coach Kostas Missas to send Olaseni – who ended with 20 points and seven boards – and Clark to the line in quick succession to stop the rot.

Nelson, sharing the reigns in a speedy backcourt pairing with Andrew Lawrence, provided more insight into what might lie ahead both for country and clubs as Prunty went disruptively small.

It almost worked.

“We ask our point guards to do a lot – guard the ball, pick up play calls – make up calls on the fly,” the coach said. “Teddy did a nice job. Luke was in spots to make plays and so was he. And we wanted to win this game. We’re good now. We’re right there. We were toe to toe with Greece tonight. This programme is good right now. Teddy tonight was good but there are things he has to learn from.”

In a tense finale, it came down to small plays. Kostas Papanikoulaou battered Murray out of bounds to earn a flagrant foul. Okereafor went 0/2 from the line but Nelson then nipped in to slash the gap 84-83 with 24.1 secs left.

Soon to go on loan to Real Betis, the rookie pro then pulled off a steal but his side could not capitalise and with the Greeks pushing clear from the line, it all but needed a three-point play to force OT.

Lawrence was fouled and converted 1/2 but the guests did just enough to hold on, showing 53% from the field – way above GB’s 40% – in a tidy performance.

“They’re a huge team,” said Clark. “They have great players from huge European clubs. They were pressurising the ball and our guards. they weren’t making it easy for our guards and we were sometimes taking bad shots due to that ball pressure. That’s something we can do better, especially with our athleticism at that spot.

“There was over-respect at times. We need to do better there. We’re GB and we should be proud of that.”

Prunty now takes his team to Warsaw to meet Poland, Israel and Hungary this week before all eyes turn to Istanbul.

Game stats

Notes: Eric Boateng missed the game as he rehabs a hamstring tear but is confident of being fit for EuroBasket. Freshman Kentucky forward Sacha Killeya-Jones will be unavailable for the Europeans and Kavell Bigby-Williams understood to be wavering on whether to go to Istanbul despite a red-shirt season ahead following his collegiate transfer from Oregon to LSU. Ben Gordon will not be joining the roster, Prunty confirmed.

 

Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • MySpace
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Print

You must be logged in to post a comment Login