Israel’s players know they have little time to celebrate the comeback win over Germany, with another must-win EuroBasket game coming up against Georgia at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv..
(photo credit: ADI AVISHAI)
After resurrecting its EuroBasket campaign with an unlikely comeback against Germany, the Israel national team can significantly boost its chances of qualifying for the last-16 when it hosts Georgia at Yad Eliyahu Arena in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.
After being outplayed by Italy and Lithuania in its first two games in Group B, Israel looked set to drop to its third straight loss when Robin Benzing’s three-pointer gave the Germans a 16-point gap with nine minutes to play.
Some lax play by Germany, a little help from the officials and a lot of heart from the Israel roster saw the blue-and-white end the night with a 23-5 run and snatch a dramatic and morale-boosting victory.
It also means Israel still has its fate in its own hands, knowing it will finish in the top four in the group and advance to the last-16 to be played in Istanbul as long as it wins its remaining two games.
Israel hosts Georgia at Yad Eliyahu on Tuesday night before wrapping up group action against Ukraine on Wednesday.
While one win may also be enough to progress depending on other results, Israel doesn’t want to take any chances.
It picked up some much-needed confidence with the comeback against Germany and is now confident of stringing together a winning streak, with its next two opponents also losing two of their first three games.
Georgia stunned Lithuania to start the tournament, but has since lost to Germany and Ukraine. The Ukrainians fell to Germany and Italy before beating Georgia.
Omri Casspi is leading Israel with 17.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game so far in the tournament, but perhaps the most pleasant surprise has been the play of naturalized center Richard Howell. The 26-year-old Marietta, Georgia, native received citizenship after marrying an Israeli last year and has become one of the national team’s most important players this summer after helping Hapoel Jerusalem to the BSL championship last season.
Howell is averaging 17.3 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest, and his excellent work on the defensive end has translated to 4.0 steals per game. Howell had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven steals against Germany after finishing with 20 points and four rebounds in the loss to Lithuania.
It was no coincidence that the blue-and-white’s collapse against Lithuania came after Howell picked up his fourth foul and went to the bench at the start of the second half, with the visitors opening a double-digit lead they wouldn’t relinquish with a 12-0 run.
“I only have good things to say about Howell. Even when we were down by 20 points Howell leaped on the floor,” said Israel coach Erez Edelstein. “Casspi came up to me more than once to say how committed and serious Howell has been.”
Casspi looked exhausted at times during the Germany game, but he has no doubt he will recover for the showdown with Georgia.