Great Britain lost 103-90 to Belgium in their opening group game at EuroBasket 2017.

Well-matched for long spells in the game, the tide turned during the latter stages of the third quarter when the under-rated Lions, who had been compelling in their accuracy from outside, turned bullies inside and GB could not quite match fire with fire.

Despite 21 points and 11 rebounds from Gabe Olaseni, plus 20 from Dan Clark, Joe Prunty’s side were not as effective defensively as they were on offense – where they shot 51% – and paid the price.

With progress from Group D in Istanbul likely to be a dogfight, it was a major blow for the Brits who will require more against Turkey on Saturday evening.

“It was a tough game,” Olaseni said. “We wanted to come out and start with a win. Looking at the stats, we did a lot of good things but also a lot of bad things. We just have to regroup. We can’t hang our heads.”

In a fast and furious first half, offense didn’t just rule. It dominated, with the Lions going 9-15 from three-point range in the opening 20 minutes and their rivals racking up 19-24 in the paint.

GB looked undaunted by the experience of the Belgians, the starting backcourt of Teddy Okereafor and Luke Nelson pushing the pace with the latter scoring his side’s opening points of this tournament after 74 seconds.

For all the talk of getting stops, it became a matter of shots, with threes traded between Clark and Axel Hervelle to level at 9-9 midway through the first before the scoring exploded.

As much from the foul line from far away for Eddy Casteels’ men who went 12-12 before a miss late in the second, cheap fouls – including an unsportsmanlike against Clark – hampering GB’s hopes.

Five ties and three lead changes in the opening period were eventually snapped by a 6-0 run that took the Brits 28-24 in front with Andrew Lawrence’s opening lay-up for the second.

The bombardment picked up pace, Sam van Rossom, flourishing in a reserve role, and Pierre Gillet combining for 6-9 from outside the arc before the break as Prunty beckoned his team inside.

With Kyle Johnson sidelined by three improbably quick fouls, the Clark to Olaseni combo brought gains, as did the habitual energy of Kieron Achara off the bench with the Scot notching 10 of his 14 points in a speedy spell.

Yet Belgium did much more on the offensive glass and it provided that steady supply of foul shots to maintain their momentum, with Olaseni capping a 6-6 appetiser from the field with a cut to the basket to bring GB back to trail 54-53 at half-time in front of an almost-empty arena.


Luke Nelson ended with 11 points (Mansoor Ahmed)

Inevitably, the deceleration arrived. But instead of trading blows, flurry was followed by flurry.

“We were not playing our defence,” Casteels admitted. “We were at the right spot and the right place but lacking intensity, that extra effort and extra details that makes your defence great. At half-time we said let’s stop trading baskets.”

Britain burst out initially, with Olaseni inspiring a 10-1 start to the third period over a 5:22 spell in which Belgium missed 14 consecutive shot attempts to fall as much as 63-55 behind.

Yet, the response was just as impactful, and it was ultimately decisive, GB held without a field goal for the last 3:38 of the quarter amid a van Rossom-inspired 18-4 run which put his team 73-67 clear with ten minutes in regulation remaining.

It required an impetus at both ends to stem the tide and regain the momentum. It never came. Nelson, quiet since an early flurry, stole inside but still the Lions remained rampant as some of the early chipiness from their opponents faded away as the tally of fouls conceded stung.

Jean Salumu downed a three and then a pair from the line as the cushion grew with nine unanswered points to 88-74 as GB scrambled to match their small ball with the extra size enjoyed by their foes.

The Belgians maintained their uncanny free throw prowess, ending on 29-37. The Brits, ruing nine misses in a 17-26 total, could not break the spell, going nearly four minutes without a single score from the field and then seeing Andrew Lawrence, like Okereafor before him, foul out with nine points on 2-8 shooting to his name.

Clark hit another three. A tiny glimmer of hope raised. Gillet matched. Hope extinguished, with Nelson also acquiring a fifth foul on 11 points as the Lions, paced by Maxime de Zeeuw’s 21 points and seven boards, coasted over the line.

“In the third quarter, we got it to an eight point lead and got a couple of possessions – one where we left one of their better shooters and gave up a three, and then had a turnover for another three – so an eight point lead went to two,” Prunty said.

“There were a lot of little plays throughout the game which made a big different in the final score, you look at some of them. Mwana had two big offensive rebound putbacks. You look at the sheet: five points – but those were big plays in the contest of the half.

“Offensively I liked our ball movement – we took care of the ball with 19 assists and six turnovers. We played well well on that end. On the other end, the three hurt us – Gillet was really good. His quick release. We talked about him. And we go through the tournament, you have to account of things guys do.

“The 19 offensive rebounds hurt. And then you’ve got to find a way to keep them off the line – 37 free throws is too many. Each possession is going to count.”

Now GB, who were out-rebounded 47-33, face hosts Turkey next, needing an upset against the odds.

Notes: Eric Boateng, who won his 100th cap, along with Jules Dang and Kofi Josephs, did not play.

1st: GB 26-24 Bel, 2nd: 53-54, 3rd: 67-73 GB starters: Okereafor, Nelson, Murray, Clark, Olaseni UpdatesGame Stats

Elsewhere, in Group D Bogdan Bogdanovic scored 30 as Serbia held off Latvia 92-82 despite 23 points from Davis Bertans.

There was a major shock Alexey Shved inspired Russia to beat Turkey 76-73 despite 28 points and 7 rebounds from Cedi Osman.

In Group C, defending champions Spain began their quest for a repeat by thrashing Montenegro 99-60 behind 18 points and nine rebounds from Willy Hernangomez in what was Pau Gasol’s 200th international. The Czech Republic routed co-hosts Romania 83-68 while Bojan Bogdanovic had 23 points as Croatia beat Hungary 67-58.

THURSDAY Group A – Slovenia 90-81 Poland, Greece 90-61 Iceland, Finland 86-84 France.
Group B: Germany 75-63 Ukraine, Georgia 79-77 Lithuania, Italy 69-48 Israel

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