Great Britain fell to a 76-86 defeat against China in their opening game of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia.
GB lacked focus on the defensive end in the second half, with a 13-22 third-quarter harming Coach Buceta’s side’s chances of securing a win.
GB would reduce their deficit to just five points late in the fourth quarter, but the key basket to get any closer would prove elusive as China eventually pulled away to an double digit victory.
Temi Fagbenle led the way on the scoreboard, pouring in a game-high 26 points to go with five assists and four steals. Johannah Leedham-Warner added 19 more and Chantelle Handy dropped 11 as the only GB scorers in double digits.
China opened as the bookies’ favourites in the contest, but GB were happy to go toe-to-toe with their opponents as Fagbenle matched Li Yuan during the early exchanges for an 8-6 GB lead.
Handy would come off the bench and immediately start firing, with three triples adding to a long-range effort from Janice Monakana as Britain led 26-21 after 1.
Following an even start to the second, GB began to stretch their lead but five straight points from Wang Siyu closed things up to 34-31. GB’s defensive game plan to shade under screens and take away the drive would leave China with ample opportunity to tee off from range, finding some success late in the half to tie the score up at 36-36.
After losing their advantage GB then went up a gear on offence, eventually leading 46-43 by the break after Li Yuan’s missed triple on the half time buzzer.
Coming out slowly to start the third, GB lost their way. A 15-6 run by China that included six straight points from Shao Ting proved pivotal, with Ting becoming the fifth Chinese player to pass double digit scoring as part of a balanced offensive effort.
Warner would answer with a triple to keep GB from falling behind by double digits and after a three-quarter court buzzer beater by China was waved off under review, GB trailed 59-65 going in the last.
Fagbenle hit her first two shots of the fourth to give GB some hope, but China were still finding significant success in transition as they were happy to run the floor late on.
A Huang Sijing triple followed by a GB turnover then presented China with an opportunity to push their lead to double digits with 6:25 remaining. That was an opportunity they took, but GB refused to go away as a Fagbenle three reduced the deficit back to five with 3:17 to go.
China then took the initiative, scoring late baskets to pad their lead. With points difference potentially becoming a deciding factor in the four-team group, falling to a double digit loss won’t have pleased Coach Buceta.
Group B’s other two teams, South Korea and Spain open their tournaments later this afternoon, with GB set to play Korea at 1:30pm GMT on Saturday.
Watch the game back and the post-match press conference below