Great Britain bounced back to keep their EuroBasket 2022 qualifying hopes alive with a convincing victory over Montenegro in Pau.
Coach Marc Steutel got exactly the reaction he wanted following Friday’s loss to France – a gritty, defensively intense win that moves his team on to two Group G wins and gives them the head-to-head advantage over the Montenegrins.
Gabe Olaseni turned in a powerhouse 28-point performance that was too hot for his rivals in the paint to handle.
But it was an-all round effort from a team that responded with gusto to the loss to two days ago.
This time they got what they didn’t against the French – a good start.
Olaseni had 12 points in the first five minutes and a Dan Clark lay-up gave GB an 11-point lead before they took the first period 28-19.
Olaseni added six more before the break and Myles Hesson grabbed 11 to give GB a 40-37 half-time lead after Montenegro chipped away.
GB started the second half with Steutel urging further steady progress, and a 10-point lead was restored, with Mockford extending it to 12 with a breakaway lay-up as they went into the fourth 55-46 up.
The Brits needed an eight-point win to claim the head-to-head and got it and more with a win built on solid defense and hard work, as well as some sound scoring efforts.
Hesson finished with 15, Luke Nelson 13 and Tarik Phillip 9 as GB moved up to second place in the Group G table following France’s win over Germany earlier in the day.
Olaseni said: “I’ve been part of GB for a few years now and I’ve loved every moment of it to be honest.
“There’s always talk about the coaching staff, whether they’re committed, whether they’re 100 per cent behind us and we saw a lot of the chatter after the last game against France.
“Me personally, I don’t know if everyone agrees with this, but if a team gets beat by 30 points that’s not down to the coaches, I think that’s down to effort and execution. We had as good a gameplan in the last game and unfortunately weren’t able to execute against a good France team but if you lose by 30 points, 20 points in a blowout, if you don’t come out with defensive intensity, that’s not necessarily on the coaching staff.
“In my mind if you lose a close game by a couple of possessions that might be down to the coaching. It may be a different play call here, maybe you need to make one or two shots but this guy to my left (acting head coach Marc Steutel) he cares a lot about GB basketball, along with the coaching staff, the support staff, they always do a great job of getting us prepared mentally and emotionally.
“A lot of times in the game today when we made that extra defensive effort it is for the group of guys we have because we have been together for a while but when you have a coaching staff who cares as much as the coaching staff we’ve had over the last few windows, including (head coach) Nate (Reinking) – he can’t be here – that gives you that added extra energy to get that stop.
“Down the stretch in the game all we could hear was Mark and he did a great job of just continuing to communicate with us. He just emphasised that we need to get stops at that end offensively we started to make shots.
“There’s always talk about GB coaching, GB players but there’s one thing that remains true throughout my time here, the coaching staff do care, they do get us prepared, it’s down to us to execute. Fortunately today we made shots but I think the main thing today was that we brought the defensive effort and got the win and we are continuing to fight.”
Steutel said: “In terms of what Gabe said about our group and our togetherness, that’s coming from one of the most professional players I have had the privilege to be around. We’ve all jumped on his back tonight and people are going to look at his stat line offensively but I think he established the defensive tone for us.
“And that’s probably representative of our group. Our group is tough, is together. Friday night was always going to be a challenge and I have absolute faith and belief in our group and being able to put a performance together particularly on the defensive end that we did today.
“I’m beyond proud of every single member of our group.”
Watch the video below for more from the press conference