Despite a brave and battling performance for the first three quarters of the game, Great Britain's senior men went down to defeat to Belgium, 64-79 on Friday night.
Final quarter costs GB in Belgium defeat
Despite a brave and battling performance for the first three quarters of the game, Great Britain's senior men went down to defeat to Belgium, 64-79 on Friday night in their latest preparation game for their EuroBasket 2015 qualifying campaign.
Head Coach Joe Prunty began the game with Devon Van Oostrum, Drew Sullivan, Myles Hesson, Dan Clark and Kieron Achara. The hosts, who appeared sharper after their recent tournament in Trento where they won twice against Sweden, took an early 1st quarter lead, 20-18.
Both teams were working through their combinations from the bench, with only Eric Boateng and Ben Mockford unable to see action during the game. The ever-reliable Clark was efficient and scored 14 first-half points. With the help of Gareth Murray (nine points), he managed to pull back the Belgians and establish a GB lead by half time, 35-33.
Five more points in the second half from Clark extended GB's advantage to 48-43 and forced a timeout from the hosts, with 4:58 remaining in the third quarter. Belgium Coach Eddy Casteels rotated less from here on and his team began to challenge strongly, with a crucial Gareth Murray 3 keeping the GB lead at 5 for a time. While the home team forced their way in front before the end of the quarter, a neat jumper from Mathew Bryan-Amaning - who was thought to be sitting out this weekend's games but won his 25th cap - ensured the game was tied at 57-57 going into the final period.
It was then that Belgium pulled away significantly with their likely EuroBasket starters on the court. While they upped their intensity at both ends of the court, the home team's defence particularly sharpened which held GB at bay, as well as creating offensive opportunities. While GB would shoot 44% in the game compared to the home team's 67%, GB's average dipped to just 10% in the final quarter while Belgium's was razor-sharp as they took the last quarter, 22-7, to win 79-64. Clark scored 20 points in all for GB with four of five from 3-point range, Maxime De Zeeuw scored a game-high 21.
GB Head Coach Joe Prunty told gbbasketball.com, "We're making improvements but obviously, people will look at the results. We are trying different things, we are putting some combinations on the floor that have not played together yet. We've put this team together in a small amount of time so there are some growing pains, but I also anticipate certain things - the communication level will be high at all times and not just in the qualifiers, the passing will be crisper - we'll continue to build as a team, so there are a lot of positive things."
"The score was tied after three quarters and we put ourselves in a very good position in a tough environment on the road. We kept it close, we just didn't execute down the stretch."
"Our defence has to improve. We have to do a much better job of doing the little things and what I mean by that, is that we're ready to move with whatever happens, so that we're not reactive but rather proactive."
"Gareth Murray played very well. He was very aggressive and very assertive. He actually picked up two quick fouls defensively but found a way to stay on the floor and continue defending without being compromised by the foul trouble. I was happy to see that but it didn't impact his aggressiveness. Dan did a nice job scoring the ball and we need those points he provides."
The two teams meet again at Ostend's Sluyters Arena on Saturday night (1900 BST).
The Great Britain senior women will appear at a third successive EuroBasket Women Final Round next summer and that makes for a very important 2014-15 club and college season for those candidates wanting to be on the plane to Hungary and Romania.
We caught up for a Q & A session with point guard Luke Nelson as he embarks on his second season with University of California, Irvine and having helped the under-20 team to their highest ever finish this past summer.