|Photo by: Associated Press|
Israel trounces Latvia to close on EuroBasket qualification
By ALLON SINAI
Team still got its fate in its own hands after thrashing Latvia 92-56 in Riga.
Israel has still got its fate in its own hands after thrashing Latvia 92-56 in
Riga on Monday night and improving to a 4-2 record in EuroBasket 2011
After suffering a disappointing home defeat to Italy last
week, the national team knew only a victory would do on Monday.
Montenegro leading Group A with a 5-1 record, and only the two best second place
teams advancing automatically to the European Championships, Israel was under
pressure ahead of the game in Latvia and it showed at the start.
first five minutes saw the blue-and-while trail by eight points early in the
encounter, but Israel came right back and effectively clinched the win by
Arik Shivek’s men outscored the hosts 36-11 in the second
period and cruised to a comfortable victory, which also did the side’s point
differential a world of good.
Israel hosts Finland in its next qualifier
on Thursday, and will be a firm favorite to claim another one-sided victory and
perhaps even clinch a 10th straight participation in the European Championships
should results in the other qualifying groups go its way.
national team remains in the hunt for first position in the group, with a road
game against Montenegro still to come next Sunday.
Guy Pnini led five
Israel players in double-figures on Monday, scoring 14 points and adding six
rebounds. Omri Casspi and David Bluthenthal contributed 12 points each, with
Yuval Naimi and Lior Eliyahu both scoring 11 points for the team, which hit 28
of 46 shots from two-point range (60.8%).
“We took good shots at the
start of the game, but the players were under a lot of pressure and they didn’t
go in,” Shivek said.
“The key to our win was our defensive playing and
the fact that we lowered their scoring percentage significantly.”
Selakovs led Latvia with 14 points, but the hosts scored just 30.8 percent from
the field, including five of 27 from beyond the arc.
Israel got off to a
slow start yet again on Monday, with Rihards Kuksiks giving Lativa an early 9-2
Another basket by Latvia’s top scorer extended the gap to eight
points (13-5) and the blue-and-white looked lost.
However, Shivek wasted
no time in making changes to the team and Israel soon seized control of the
encounter thanks to some superb defending.
After allowing 15 points in
the first six-and-a-half minutes of the game, the national team held the hosts
to a mere 11 points in the remainder of the first half and all but secured the
win by the break.
A 16-0 run gave Israel a 23-15 advantage and there was
no stopping the visitors after that. The hosts were stifled time and again and
Shivek’s men ran riot.
A great spin move by Yaniv Green opened a
double-digit margin (27-17) and Eliyahu’s lay-up three-and-a-half minutes later
increased the lead to 40-20.
The gap continued to grow until the
interval, with Casspi’s dunk to cap the first half ending a sensational second
period and giving Israel an unassailable 54-26 advantage.
blue-and-white’s team effort in the first half was epitomized by the fact that
four players scored eight points or more, but none reached
The second half was pure garbage time, with Israel looking
to maintain its big margin and Latvia only hoping matters didn’t get much
Both teams got their wish and Israel completed a significant
victory, which puts the team back on course to book its place in next summer’s