Standard Life Great Britain rallied back from seven down, late in the fourth quarter to beat FYR of Macedonia in overtime 104-96 in a pulsating encounter at Northumbria University’s new Sports Central complex.
Pops Mensah-Bonsu stole the show for the hosts, as he poured in 27 points and nine rebounds. The former CSKA Moscow man was full of praise for team-mate, Luol Deng and admits that sticking to their specific gameplan was key to victory.
“I’m not here if Luol Deng isn’t the player that he is – and I think most of the points that I got was because of the attention that he got.” Pops confessed.
“Coach’s gameplan was good coming in. Defensively, we were told to try to disrupt them, try and get them out of their offence, we knew they drove the ball at times. But, we wanted to drive them off the three, because they shoot a lot of three-pointers.
“I want to thank the fans. This was my first time in Newcastle – and to see that turnout was amazing.” Pops concluded.
Luol Deng hit 23 points, while adopted Geordie, Andrew Sullivan contributed 17 points in front of small, but passionate Geordie faithful. The Macedonians were led by Siena new boy, Bo McCalebb, who scored a very impressive 30 points, while Pero Antic grabbed 16 personal, in a losing effort.
The visitors looked set to take control of Group B, as they closed in on victory. But, Deng nailed a three-pointer off a Mensah-Bonsu missed free-throw to tie the game at 87, with 6 seconds of regulation remaining. Deng had earlier missed an open triple with a minute to go, when the Brits were down 84-85.
Great Britain took control of a titanic battle in overtime, as they blasted eight unanswered points, to put the game out of the Macedonians reach. The visitors rallied, but the hosts were always comfortable.
“For most the game, even when we were down, I felt like we were comfortable.” Head coach, Chris Finch commented.
“We lost our discipline in the third, we tried some things, and it threw us off our rhythm a little bit. Sometimes when your team is down six or seven, it feels like they don’t have a response in them, but by the next timeout, I felt like we had a response.” Finch also said.
Great Britain raced out of the blocks to start, pacing to a 17-9 lead, with exciting dunks from Deng and Pops, adding to Rate Reinking’s three-point threat. FYROM though came back to trail GB; 43-47 at the half.
The third quarter saw Britain collapse for the second straight week, as the Macedonians came back to tie the game as the buzzer sounded to end the third quarter. Dimitar Sokolov, with the resulting triple.
“Basketball is game of runs, I liked our start, we wanted to be energetic. But, we knew it would be hard for them.
“Our guys did a great job of staying focused.” Finch concluded.
John Hobbs for TalkBasket.net – in Newcastle.