Great Britain’s Men were able to finish the 2nd round of pre-qualification for EuroBasket 2021 with a 78-75 win over Austria, but the margin of victory wasn’t sufficient for GB to top Group D. 26 points from Austria’s Sylven Landesberg led all scorers, with the talented shooter going to the line a whopping 20 times in the contest.
Needing to beat the hosts by 14 points or more to secure the tiebreaker at the top of the group, GB did everything they could down the stretch to try and move ahead by the required margin. A Conner Washington triple (seven points, three assists) with 4:48 remaining in the game pushed GB in front by nine at 72-63, but that was as high as the lead would go. Coach Lorenzo’s side did have opportunities to inflict further damage on Austria, but missed deep balls from Soko (19 points, nine rebounds, two assists) and then Washington gave the hosts the opportunity to eat back into the GB lead as the clock wound down.
“They came out strong, they made their shots in the beginning. We found our rhythm in the second half, we did ourselves a big gap in the first half like at home,” said GB’s Myles Hesson, who finished with 18 points and nine rebounds. “We can be happy about the performance today. It’s a tough team.”
In the early going, it looked as if GB were once again going to fall to defeat at the hands of Landesberg after his 47-point outburst when these sides last met back in November. A quick start from Austria had them ahead 8-2 after a 3/3 opening from the field, but GB fought back through Soko to stay in touch. Landesberg then began to put his stamp on the contest for Austria as he scored 9 in the quarter to help his side establish a 27-19 lead after 1.
From there, GB began to find a bit more rhythm but not before the difference on the score board had passed into double digits. Kyle Johnson’s missed three-pointer provided GB with a momentum boosting play as the all-action Soko flew in along the base line to collect the rebound before throwing down the put-back dunk. That play helped spark a 10-2 run for GB as the home lead was cut to 40-37 with 2:54 remaining in the half. Landesberg would continue his feast from the line to keep the Austrian total ticking over, going a perfect 11/11 from the charity stripe by the main change. That left the score poised at 48-44 Austria by the half.
The 3rd quarter saw GB kick into action as they looked to make inroads into the contest. They’d eventually find success on that front, but not at the first time of asking. Missed triples from Teddy Okereafor (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steals) and then Dan Clark kept the scores close before Clark reloaded once again to hit his target and tie the game up at 51. Soko then stepped to the fore to give GB their first lead of the day, firstly dropping a perfect over the shoulder, no look dime to Hesson for a two-hand slam plus the and-1, before scoring a jumper of his own to push his side in front 56-54. GB’s lead would have been larger going into the 4th quarter but a final second three from Austria’s Max Hopfgartner (eight points, five rebounds) narrowed the difference to 62-60 GB with 10 minutes remaining.
With Landesberg held to just six points in the second half, GB were able to keep making a charge towards that 14-point mark. A 7-3 streak to begin the quarter helped in that regard before Washington pushed the lead up to 9, but that was as close as the visitors would get.
Coach Lorenzo’s side now move on to the 3rd and final round of pre-qualification as they attempt to get their name in the pot for main qualification to EuroBasket 2021. That will involve trying to top a three team group involving Luxembourg and Kosovo. The Third Round will be played in a home-and-away format, with the teams facing each other over six game days from August 3-21, 2019.
GB Head Coach Alberto Lorenzo said: “I think we played two different games in the two halves. One we wouldn’t fight wide phases of with intensity, and in the second we had a much better, we controlled the game and in defence.”
Austria Head Coach Mike Coffin said: “It was an unbelievable fight from our team. The best loss in Austrian history, I would say. We are all happy. Just congratulations to our team for the effort and the fight they put out there