Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel.
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
A day after losing any hope of advancing to the knockout rounds of EuroBakset 2017, Israel ended the tournament in embarrassing fashion on Wednesday night, being thrashed 88-64 by Ukraine at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv.
The blue-and-white had only pride to play for after Tuesday’s 104-91 overtime defeat to Georgia meant it no longer had a chance of finishing in the top four in Group B and reaching the last 16 in Istanbul, Turkey.
But with over 4,000 fans still coming out to watch the team, and with the game being decisive for Ukraine and Georgia, which needed a blue-and-white win to advance, Israel put up a performance that was nothing short of disgraceful.
The hosts actually led 16-11, but then allowed Ukraine to go on a 30-2 run over the next seven-and-a-half minutes to open a 23-point gap (41-18) which Israel didn’t really even try to erase. The margin reached 38 points (81-43) before the blue-and-white slightly limited the damage, but not the magnitude of the humiliation.
Israel ended its group in last place with a single win from five games, a scenario it didn’t envision in its worst nightmares when it was named as a co-host of the event for the first time back in December 2015.
“Of course I didn’t like what I saw, but we need to understand that our players didn’t have a lot of energy left for this game,” said Israel head coach Erez Edelstein, who likely guided the national team for the last time.
“This was a lack of respect towards the fans who came here. This isn’t the team that I built over the past four years. Sometimes when you are very frustrated it results in a collapse like this. The supporters doesn’t deserve this and this wasn’t my team.”
Lior Eliyahu scored 12 points for Israel, with Viacheslav Kravtsov netting 17 points for Ukraine.
“It was our fifth game in seven days and we ran out of energy,” said Casspi, who scored only three points. “We tried to play well for the fans but unfortunately that didn’t happen. I’m sorry we didn’t play the way we should have.
The loss to Georgia finished us both physically and mentally.
“I’m really disappointed with our tournament,” added the forward. “We hoped to advance and we wanted to give the crowd a better show. We gave our all and I think everyone knows that.”
Oded Katash and Edelstein’s assistant Dan Shamir are the early favorites to replace him. The Israel Basketball Association doesn’t have long to make a decision as the blue-and-white already begins its World Cup 2019 qualifying campaign in November.
Due to the new format of the basketball World Cup, the next EuroBasket won’t be held until 2021.
Ukraine knew it would advance with a win after Georgia lost 71-69 to Italy earlier in the day. Georgia players returned to Yad Eliyahu in the hope of seeing Israel beat Ukraine, but they left during the second quarter after witnessing Israel’s humiliating collapse.