Great Britain were unable to get their EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round campaign off to a winning start after being undone by some Icelandic fire as they fell to an 83-70 Group A loss in Reykjavik.
Iceland hot as GB suffer defeat in EuroBasket opener
Shrugging off a tricky opening against the energetic hosts, Joe Prunty and his players overcame an early 16-point deficit and even built a seven point lead in the third quarter, before eventually unravelling during the last quarter as the home side found the hot-hand once again.
Iceland had initially sensed an upset after posting a devastating opening spell right from the tip-off to surge into a commanding 20-4 advantage. Needing someone to spark Great Britain into life, Kieron Achara duly stepped off the bench and with six points in quick succession either side of the first and second quarter break, helped his team to cut the gap and begin the fightback at 22-10.
Looking to get a much needed foothold in the game, Great Britain began to repair the damage in impressive fashion, with Achara initiating a 12-2 burst which got them back to within just four points early in the second period.
Some excellent team work witnessed the scoring load being shared around, with baskets from Devon Van Oostrum, Myles Hesson and Drew Sullivan helping the visitors wrestle the momentum away from Iceland.
It was Dan Clark who really got Great Britain into the ascendancy by scoring nine straight points including a couple of dunks and a three-pointer on the stroke of half-time to level matters at 34-34 heading to the locker rooms.
The interval didn't affect the rhythm of the Great Britain players as they simply picked up where they had left off when the action resumed. They registered nine of the first eleven points in the second half as they found their range once again from the perimeter.
Sullivan fired a three-pointer to get his team rolling again and when Gareth Murray and Clark both followed suit, Great Britain were 43-36 in the lead and looking like they would kick on - but Iceland had other ideas.
The home side stopped the rot firmly in its tracks and by the end of the third quarter, had not only reeled Great Britain back into view, but a free-throw by Hlynur Baeringsson had given them a slender 59-58 lead.
With the game perfectly poised, both teams were in with a great chance of taking victory and it was Iceland who seized their opportunity. Much to the delight of the local supporters, they piled on the pressure with a 17-3 start to the last period and continued punishing their opponents with points from turnovers as Great Britain's chances ebbed away.
Dan Clark finished with a team-high 20 points, eight rebounds and three blocks, while Achara collected a creditable 16 points from an eye-catching shooting effort. Devon Van Oostrum claimed 13 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Drew Sullivan did the hard work on the glass with nine rebounds.
A full set of game statistics from the game is available here.
GB Head Coach Joe Prunty told gbbasketball.com, "We struggled at the beginning but did a nice job of staying composed and battling back. We talked about composure in the 3rd quarter when we got the lead. Too many lay-ups and turnovers hurt us down the stretch."
Great Britain now have two home games at the Copper Box Arena in succession to get the campaign back on track, starting with Bosnia and Herzegovina this forthcoming Wednesday and then a chance to extract revenge against Iceland a week later on Wednesday 20 August.
There are still tickets available and you can book your place here.
Following her return to the Turkish Women's Basketball League with Orduspor, GBBasketball.com catches up with Chantelle Handy to talk about playing EuroCup Women and returning to the GB squad next summer for EuroBasket Women 2015.
November has been a good month for British Basketball. With funding confirmed from Sport England for the next two years and Basketball Wales formally committing its long term future to British Basketball, alongside Basketball England and Basketball Scotland, there is a lot to be positive about.
Since its formation in 2006 to enable Great Britain teams to compete in FIBA and FIBA Europe international competitions, British Basketball has delivered significant progress on the court as evidenced by an unprecedented six appearances in European Championship finals by the GB men and women, first time appearances in A Division, medals at age group levels and our significant climb in world rankings during that time.