- National Teams
Great Britain under-20’s squandered a double-digit half-time lead as they suffered a second straight defeat at the European Championships after losing 80-72 to Slovenia in Italy, on Wednesday.
When Josh McSwiggan nailed a corner three to beat the first half buzzer, GB looked in control with an 11-point advantage, but they were outscored 41-22 in the second half to fall to another loss in Group D.
Despite the two defeats, there have been plenty of positives to suggest GB can still make it out of the group.
Kavell Bigby-Williams shot 7-10 from the field for his team-high 18 points as well as adding 12 rebounds. Luke Nelson (pictured) scored 13 points and dished out six assists, while Deane Williams scored 11 of his 12 points from the bench in the first half.
“In the second half we got away from defending and sharing the ball,” Head Coach Douglas Leichner told GB Basketball.
“In the first half we had hit a lot of our benchmarks in terms of what we wanted to achieve offensively and defensively but then we got into some foul trouble, we allowed them to take a lot of free throws and we weren’t able to stop their penetration.
“We need to focus on protecting the paint better. We did a poor job of stopping people getting to the rim.
“It’s tough with two losses but we understand the situation and we are already thinking about Germany (on Thursday) because your most important game is always your next game.”
GB got off to a slow start as their opponents opened the scoring with back-to-back scores from beyond the arc before leading 15-9. Williams then scored the first seven points in a 12-2 run to put his side ahead as GB finished the opening quarter with a 26-24 advantage.
The teams were tied at 28, and then GB went on a 14-2 run capped by a three from Jules Dang Akodo as they took control of the game. Nelson also netted from deep before McSwiggan then finished a strong second quarter in style with another three at the buzzer to put GB up 50-39 at the break.
Five different players netted from beyond the arc in the first half as part of the team’s 8/13 shooting from 3-point range, whilst controlling the rebounding battle (20-11).
Nelson continued the long-range barrage when play resumed for the second half, but the quarter belonged to the Slovenes. They took the third 17-9 as they clawed their way back into contention to trail by just three points at 59-56 heading into the final quarter.
Slovenia had the momentum and they made it count when it mattered most. Bigby-Williams, who had 8 points and 5 rebounds in the fourth alone, put GB up by five points with the first score before the lead began to be chipped away at.
The Gillette College forward had to put restore GB’s lead at 65-64, but a 9-0 response from Slovenia over the next 3:50 proved pivotal. GB could not get any closer than six points as their opponents secured the comeback win.
GB went 1/12 from 3-point range in the second half and shot just over 60% from the free throw line throughout the contest.
Leichner’s side will again be looking to bounce back in Lignano Sabbiadoro when they take on Germany in their third game at 1:15pm (UK time) on Thursday.
The top three teams in each group progress to the Second Round, while the eight teams that don’t qualify will battle it out for Division A survival with seven teams relegated.
Image credit: GB Basketball/Ville Vuorinen