Great Britain progressed from the group stages of EuroBasket with a 68-54 win over Ukraine.

An imperfect showing. But enough, with Temi Fagbenle hitting a game-high 22 points and 8 rebounds as Chema Buceta’s side held their rivals to just nine in a decisive fourth period.

It ultimately cemented second place in Group A, and a contest with Montenegro in Riga on Monday night (7pm UK) where a quarter-final clash with Hungary will be on the line.

Spain topped the pool by holding off a belated charge from dogged Latvia to win 59-56 behind 16 points from Astou Ndour.

Now for the Montenegrins who thrashed the Czech Republic 70-57 to survive elimination.

“They fought and showed a lot of resilience so this will be a very difficult game for us,” Buceta acknowledged. “We have play our defence. We have to adjust. But it is important to good defence and with a lot of discipline in offense.”

Ukraine were beaten in a useful tune-up. The first objective ticked off.

“We knew they had to try and get a win today to try and qualify so we came and out and we fought,” Chantelle Handy declared. “It was a bit sloppy at times but we picked up when we needed to and got the win.”

GB’s relentlessly mobile defence sucked Ukraine into a shooting game in the first half in which they continuously drew blanks.

18 three-point attempts before the break. None made, with chief threat Alina Iagupova notching only six of her 21 points in the opening 20 minutes as she was forced to dish rather than consume.

Buceta’s offense was ragged. Seven turnovers came in the opening period. Hard graft at the other end saved blushes and accumulated a 9-2 run as Fagbenle converted on a fast break to secure a 19-10 lead.

Ukraine, winless and desperate here, responded. Eight without reply. GB, spurred by Eilidh Simpson and Karlie Samuelson on the perimeter and Jo Leedham’s drives accumulated a 16-6 run that afforded a 35-24 cushion at half-time.

Job only half done.

“Our concern at half-time was they hadn’t scored a three which was strange and that they had eleven offensive rebounds.”

A justifiable worry, as it transpired. Iagupova broke free of her shackles with two threes in a 9-0 burst midway through the third quarter with GB downing only one of their first seven shots.

And when Liudmyla Naumenko found just enough room for a lay-in on the buzzer and Ukraine held their first lead at 45-44 at the end of the 3rd. GB requiring a burst of defensive energy rather than to ride any remaining luck.

Brutal competition but survival (Mansoor Ahmed)

Fagbenle is an accomplished performer, however. A true totem off a MVP season in the Polish League and what is expected to be an enhanced role when she returns to the WNBA and the Minnesota Lynx next month.

Accepting an entry from Handy, she patiently bade her time amid two scores that began a decisive 13-0 burst that incorporated threes from Vanderwal and Samuelson.

“They came back, and then we came back and it was a tremendous defensive effort,” the former declared.

Added Buceta: “Same picture, same movie, all the championship. When we play good defence, we are there. If we don’t play good defence, we are in trouble.”

Ukraine, staring an exit, threw up prayers. Unanswered.

They head home.

“We did make some mistakes now and then,” Handy declared. “But I think when they came back, we settled down and closed it out.”

Now GB will play at least once more with real hopes of a further extension if they can get past Montenegro and land an entirely winnable quarter-final with the Hungarians.

“We know that every day can be different,” Handy added. “We take from what we did today and prepare.”

UpdatesGame Stats

Game Notes

GB starters v Ukraine: Vanderwal, Samuelson, Leedham, Handy, Fagbenle


Group A: Great Britain 68-54 Ukraine, Latvia 56 Spain 59 – Standings: 1. Spain 3-0*, 2. Great Britain 2-1,  3. Latvia 1-2, 4. Ukraine 0-3 (E).
Group B: Czech Rep 57-70 Montenegro, Sweden 65-70 France – Standings: 1. France 2-0,  2. Sweden 1-1, 3. Montenegro 1-2, 3. Czech Rep 1-2 (E)
Group C: Turkey 59-58 Hungary, Slovenia 75-57 Italy  – Standings: 1. Hungary 2-1*, 2. Italy 1-2, 3. Slovenia 1-2, 4. Turkey 1-2 (E)
Group D: Belarus 62-76 Russia, Belgium 66-70 Serbia – Standings: 1. Serbia 3-0*, , 2. Belgium 1-2,  3. Russia 1-2. 4. Belarus 1-2 (E)

* Advance to quarter-finals,  (E) Eliminated in First Round


Photo: Mansoor Ahmed


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