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Page last updated at 18:13 GMT, Monday, 7 September 2009 19:13 UK

GB suffer loss in European opener

EUROBASKET 2009, Poland, 7-20 September
GB matches: 8 September v Spain (2000 BST); 9 September v Serbia (2015 BST) Coverage: GB games live on Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only)

Felipe Reyes

Highlights - Day two at EuroBasket 2009

By Rob Dugdale
BBC Sport at EuroBasket in Poland

Great Britain's opening game at the European Championships ended in a 72-59 loss to Slovenia in Group C in Warsaw.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu hit 18 points in his first game for the team this summer and Robert Archibald added 12.

After losing the first quarter 27-15, GB came roaring back to lead 35-33 just before half-time and were just four points adrift after three quarters.

But Slovenia hit some big shots to open the fourth period with a 14-5 run and GB were unable to close the gap.

Coach Chris Finch had Slovenia in his sights as the likeliest to give up a win which could allow GB a place in the second phase of a tournament which a united Great Britain team has never played at before.

The top three teams from the four-team group in Warsaw will travel to Lodz for the second phase of the tournament, but at least one win is needed to make that stage.

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Slovenia had lost to GB at a tournament in Seville three weeks ago, but came out shooting the ball much better than they had in that game and had Britain 23-11 down in the first quarter.

Bostjan Nachbar and Goran Jagodnik hit shots from distance when their team needed them in the third quarter and Jaka Lakovic and Domen Lorbek hit threes to start the fourth-quarter run that edged GB out of contention.

GB's recently-simplified offensive sets are designed to maximise their power under the opposing basket, and it was Archibald and Mensah-Bonsu that started the second-quarter comeback that brought GB level and six points from the underused Joel Freeland that brought the lead.

"Great Britain certainly punished us under the basket in the first half," admitted Slovenia coach Jurij Zdovc. "Also we helped them because we weren't doing our job properly."

Although the addition of Mensah-Bonsu to the team certainly helped, the poor shooting that has plagued GB all summer was again a factor in their defeat.

They hit only four three-pointers in the game and of the back court players, only Nate Reinking and Flinder Boyd scored field goals.

"No we didn't move the ball well enough at times to get the open looks that we wanted," admitted Finch. "Our game plan was to pound the ball inside and I think we tended to take our eye off the basket. I told the guys at half-time that we needed to be ready to drop a few more shots out there but we never really did that.

"Pops gave us a nice game and a ton of energy. The fourth quarter you could see he got out of rhythm with the team a little but he helped us get back in the game.

"We're satisfied although we're not happy. We played hard, we gave it a good shot, we just ran out of gas," said Finch.

"We needed to get a few plays at the right time - they made them, we didn't. It wasn't a 15-point game - we just fell short by about five minutes."

"We were targeting the first game simply because it would be great to get a win on the board early.

Great Britain's next game could not be more daunting. Spain are reigning world champions and the favourites to win the title in Poland.

In addition to that, they are trying to shake off their reputation as perennial silver medallists (three in the last five EuroBaskets) and finally win a gold.

"This is what you play basketball for - so you can play against the best," said Nate Reinking. "It's going to be easy for us to get up for tomorrow. Even so, we're disappointed with tonight - we had a chance until the fourth quarter.

GB must now look to Plan B and get a win against either Spain on Tuesday or Serbia in the final group game on Wednesday.

Serbia's unexpected 66-57 win over Spain in Monday's second game merely confirmed how high the level of competition is in Group C.



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see also
Finch names GB EuroBasket squad
05 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Pops return strengthens GB hopes
02 Sep 09 |  Basketball
Turkey too strong for weakened GB
29 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB 'embarrassing' in latest loss
28 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB gift last-gasp win to Latvia
26 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Great Britain clinch Slovenia win
21 Aug 09 |  Basketball
Lithuania too strong for GB men
20 Aug 09 |  Basketball
GB suffer heavy defeat to Spain
19 Aug 09 |  Basketball
In-depth interview - Luol Deng
12 Aug 09 |  Basketball


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