(photo credit: Asaf Kliger)
Israel remained in contention for EuroBasket 2013 qualification on Wednesday
night, overcoming a gritty Iceland team 92-75 at Nokia Arena to improve to 5-3
in Group A.
The national team thrashed Iceland by 27 points on the road
two weeks ago, but the visitors led by as many as nine points in the first
quarter and only trailed by four at the break.
However, Israel finally
put the game to rest in the third period and will be confident of beating
Slovakia on Saturday ahead of a winner-takes-all showdown at Serbia next
“We have played so many games recently that I decided to use my
bench players until we found the lineup that led us to the win,” said Israel
coach Arik Shivek. “We now must defeat Slovakia and then we face what is in my
opinion the toughest game in European basketball.”
Should Israel lose to
Serbia, it will finish the group in third place as long as it defeats Slovakia.
It will be hoping to be among the four best third-placed teams from the six
groups who will also progress to the European Championships, but will need
results from other groups to go its way for that to happen.
led Israel with 22 points on Wednesday, with Lior Eliyahu notching up his second
straight double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds and Alex Tyus contributing
19 points and 10 boards.
Jakob Sigurdarson had 21 points for
“Fatigue played a part in the first half, but the bench players
won the game for us and they deserve every credit for that,” Casspi
All the pregame talk about thrashing Iceland was made to look
ridiculous in the first quarter, with the visitors embarrassing
Iceland opened with five straight points and an 11-2 run capped
by Jon Stefansson’s three-point play gave it a 20-11 lead.
the last six points of the first quarter to limit the damage (20-17), but the
Icelanders would not go away easily, with Haukur Palsson’s three-pointer
increasing the gap to seven points (29-22).
However, Casspi finally found
his range in the second period, scoring 12 points to help Israel erase the
deficit and move into the lead.
An Ido Kozikaro free throw capped a 13-3
run which gave Israel a 35-32 advantage, but the win was far from secure at the
break, with the hosts holding just a four-point edge
Nevertheless, Iceland would never really come close to taking
the lead again, with Tyus dunking at will in the third frame, giving the
blue-and-white its first double-digit margin (59-49) with two more easy points
midway through the quarter.
The hosts took a 67-56 gap into the final 10
minutes and were at this stage surely thinking about increasing the margin to 20
points and more.
However, Israel ultimately had to settle for a 17-point
win which keeps it in the hunt for second position in the group as well as a
place among the four best third-placed finishers.