Great Britain’s men breathed new life into their EuroBasket 2021 pre-qualifying campaign with a 75-61 win over Cyprus in Nicosia on Monday evening.
Myles Hesson led GB with 21 points as a 9-0 run early in the third quarter gave them a 46-36 lead, which they never relinquished. GB had led for the majority of the game but Cyprus kept them on their toes until that game-changing run.
Ovie Soko added 14 with Gabe Olaseni amassing 12 points and seven rebounds in what was a good evening’s work.
The win improves Great Britain’s Group D record to 1-1 as the players return to their club duties until they meet Cyprus again on Thursday, 21 February.
The men now have to beat Cyprus again in February and beat Austria by 15 points or more on Sunday, 24 February in order to advance to the EuroBasket 2021 qualifiers proper, next summer.
“I’m very happy for the win,” said GB men’s head coach Alberto Lorenzo. “This team needs wins like this. Our first step was working on defence. We performed well in defence, especially in the second half. I’m happy for the work the players put on the court.”
“We did a good job in following the game plan the coach set for us,” added Soko.
“We couldn’t change many things in a few days, but we could work on rebounds and turnovers, which we can control and focus on. We did a good job in rebounding and played solid defence. We made another step forward.”
Tyrell Biggs led Cyprus with 16 points but fall to 0-3 in Group D.
With defence the key to stopping a Cyprus team that like to pass the ball around the perimeter for an open three-point shooter, GB certainly made a decent start to begin with, as they forced two turnovers within the first minute.
However, GB’s good start defensively wasn’t being rewarded with scores at the other end and Cyprus chipped away at GB’s defence and would take a 20-12 lead thanks to a three from Stefanos Iliadis. GB would finish the first brightly and a buzzer-beating score from Dan Clark kept them in touch, but trailing 20-16.
Cyprus were struggling from the field to start the second, and GB made them pay as a three-pointer in the corner from Soko gave the visitors the lead 27-26 with 4:11 left in the second.
Soko’s effort was equalled by Teddy Okereafor nearly two minutes later, as he grabbed a big offensive rebound off an Olaseni miss to score in the corner and even though Cyprus hit back late on, GB took a deserved 37-34 lead at the break.
Great Britain came out determined in the third quarter, and thanks to Soko plus the energy of Okereafor, a 9-0 run gave GB a 46-36 lead with 6:12 left. Cyprus could not contain the visitors’ accurate shooting mixed with sublime transition play.
A three-pointer from Hesson extended GB’s lead to 51-38 as he and Surrey Scorchers’ Josh Steel scored their last eight points as give them a commanding 56-44 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
Scores from Ogo Adegboye and Hesson increased Great Britain’s lead to start the fourth quarter as the hosts were beginning to tire and miss open looks. Hesson throughout the final period was a menace inside as he scored, and scored often.
Cyprus found their rhythm towards the end as three-pointers from Ilidis and Christopher Razis narrowed the gap, but by that point GB were home and dry, as they celebrated a much needed win.