‘It’s all about our defence’: GB coach implores team to focus or fall ahead of must-win EuroBasket qualifying clash

A ruthless solo display from Austrian Sylven Landesberg with 49 points inflicted a damaging 96-82 defeat over Great Britain in their EuroBasket 2021 pre-qualifier in Manchester on Thursday.

Monday’s away game with Cyprus in Nicosia is now a must win for GB if they have any hope of qualifying from the three-team group, Austria winning there on Sunday by 10 points to seal their place in the 2019-2021 qualifying round.

Myles Hesson, Andrew Lawrence and Ovie Soko kept British hopes alive last week with 18, 16 and 15 points respectively but perhaps a more telling stat was Austria outrebounding the Lions 43-30.

Landesberg however was scintillating and put on a scoring clinic as he posted a haul so remarkable that even the scoreboard was having trouble keeping up among some technical issues.

The 28-year-old Brooklyn native, who recently acquired an Austrian passport, simply took over the game with a repertoire of corner threes, step back jumpers and finishing through some strong contact. 

At the half, Landesberg had 40 points including five three pointers, one of which that was hit from so deep, he may well have required oxygen – his play was certainly “unconscious”.

The Turk Telekom small forward looked like he was playing a pick up game in the middle of an international pre-qualifier, as a fan of the game you couldn’t help but enjoy it and neither could he.

“I just had fun out there. At the end of the day it’s basketball, if you’re out there miserable it’s not going to go your way,” said Landesberg.

“If you could go back and watch the game now and see all the emotions, we were all having fun out there, enjoying it as one unit. When I started getting going, the guys saw it and they just kept feeding me the ball.

“They actually were telling me ‘Go for 50, don’t stop!’.”

And go he did. 40 of his 49 at the half, two less than the GB team and 29 points more than GB’s top scorer to that point Lawrence. Landesberg stuffed the stats sheet with 10 rebounds, five assists and two steals.

Hesson was the bright spot for Great Britain finishing as the leading scorer for GB, showing some good defence on Landesberg in the second half.

“Whether it’s one person or the whole team, they scored 96 points so our defence wasn’t good enough,” said an understandably disgruntled Hesson.

GB coach Alberto Lorenzo was visibly dejected, at times shaking his head almost in disbelief.

“We need to keep working. We have some players today that could be better and at the end it is about experience and experience comes with time.

“We will try to focus the team on defence, it’s not about our offence, we started the game with 26 points for the first quarter, that’s a lot.”

Image courtesy of Nacsport via YouTube, with thanks.

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