Beaten by Greece, the Belgian Lions say (almost) goodbye to the World Cup

Belgium were beaten by Greece 70-72 (half-time 34-31), Monday at the MonsArena, in their 4th meeting of the 2nd round of qualifying for the Basketball World Cup (men). This defeat reduces almost to nothing the chances of the Belgian Lions to compete in the first World Cup in their history next year. Hero of the match with 30 personal points, Retin Obsohan had the winning ball in the dying seconds but his offensive foul deprived the Belgians of this opportunity. The 26 balls lost by the Lions will have weighed heavily in the final count.

The other two matches in Group I, played on Monday, saw Latvia defeat Great Britain 79-63 and Serbia defeat Turkey 77-76. In the standings, Latvia is in the lead with 15 points for 13 to Serbia, 2nd, and Greece 3rd. Turkey is 4th with 11 points and Belgium 5th also with 11 points. Great Britain brings up the rear (9 pts). Belgium will complete its qualifying campaign on Friday February 24, 2023 with a trip to Great Britain before welcoming Turkey on Monday February 27.

The top three from each of the four European groups will qualify for the 2023 World Cup which will bring together 32 teams from August 25 to September 10 in Japan and the Philippines. The Belgians found the Greeks who had dominated them 85-69 on August 28. This time, the “Greek Freak”, Giannis Antetokounmpo, nor Tyler Dorsey were present, retained by the NBA. They had scored 48 points together in Athens.

Belgium lead at the break

Led by Retin Obasohan (12 pts in the first quarter) and Ismael Bako, the two Belgians playing in the Euroleague, the Lions reacted well after a hesitant start. Led 5-9, they signed a 10-0 which allowed them to return to the game (15-9). The 7 turnovers committed in the first period prevented them from really capitalizing on their advantage in the paint (10-2 on rebounds). Everything remained to be done after ten minutes (19-19).

The rear of Villeurbanne, Obasohan, continued his festival, so that the Belgians could take the lead at the break (34-31) thanks to 20 points (6/8 including 3/5 awarded) from their star, well helped by the mastery under the rings (20-9 in rebounds) even if the 17 lost balls were expensive.

A short defeat

The exclusion, on the Greek side, of Bochoridis, after an unsportsmanlike foul which came on top of a previous technique, allowed Belgium to lead 38-31. This woke up the Blues, more effective in defense (Obasohan no longer scored during the 3rd period), and the scoreboard tipped in their favor 41-43 (24th). The meeting was animated and even if the quality was not always there, the commitment and the suspense were very present. The Greeks began to find the target at long distance (4/5 in this 3rd quarter) and suddenly, the Lions found themselves at -7 (47-54). They reacted and had reduced their deficit to -3 when entering the last quarter (55-58).

Dario Gjergja’s players managed several defensive stops but also missed several open shots so that they always remained behind the mark (63-66 in the 35th minute). The gap was reduced to its simplest expression (67-68, 37th) while the “money-time” began to weigh on the nerves of the players. Gillet then missed a winning shot which would have put the Belgians back in front (69-71). Then Tabu does not convert a throw on an opposing technical foul and Bako only manages one out of two (70-71) with 40 seconds remaining in the match. And on the last attack, the hero of the day was very unhappy to see himself sanctioned for an offensive fault. Enough to allow Lountzis to fix the final score at 70-72.

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