Day two at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World cup dawned as a crucial one for the Tall Blacks. Just eighteen hours after suffering a heart breaking three-point loss against Turkey the New Zealand team entered a crucial game against the Dominican Republic in the Bizkaia Arena knowing a second defeat would make qualifying for the second phase of the competition almost impossible.
The Tall Blacks shaded the first period 16-14 on the back of 13 points from Tom Abercrombie.
Ranked 26th in the world the Dominicans were also looking to bounce back from a day one defeat (72-62 to Ukraine). They started the second period well – Victor Liz knocking down a triple following a missed lay up from Corey Webster. Vucinic called a time out with the TB’s 21-16 behind.
Kirk Penney finally got the NZ scoreboard ticking again almost four minutes into the 2nd period as the Tall Blacks offence almost ground to a halt. A sluggish second period ended with the Tall Blacks trailing 34-27. Abercrombie, strangely under used in the second stanza, led the Kiwi scoring with his 13 points first quarter haul. The TB”s had only two other scorers from the field, Penney (5pts) and Vukona (8pts) as they connected with just 11 from 33 scoring attempts
A critical 4th foul by Vukona picked up early in the third period did not help the Kiwi cause.
A big block by Tom Abercrombie excited the locals as well as the Kiwi followers and when Penney added a couple of threes the Tall Blacks were back in contention.
Isaac Fotu scored on the final offence of the stanza to reduce the Dominican’s advantage to a single point 50-51 at three quarter time.
Corey Webster tied the scores 54-54 early in the final period but the Tall Blacks soon fell behind 61-55 after a couple of turnovers. Houston Rockets swingman Francisco Garcia demonstrated his class as he nailed a couple of triples and then scored off a lob pass to extend the Dominican advantage to ten points, 68-58 with 3:10 remaining.
Nenad Vucinic called a timeout but it was to no avail once again the Tall Black’s failure to make shots down the stretch had hurt them.
The Corey Webster triple with 1.25 to play was their only field goal in the final five minutes.
Final score 76-63
Vucinic was disappointed with the Tall Blacks display. “It is well known that if we shoot poorly from the perimeter we have little chance of winning – we only shot 22% from beyond the three point arc, we targeted Dominican Republic for a win. It was also disappointing to be out rebounded 43-34.We are now in a desperate situation as we have to depend on a lot of other results going our way”
Tom Abercrombie echoed his coach’s comments, “It is very disappointing, it’s a game we expected to win”.
He then added optimistically “We need to win the last three games”
That will be a mighty challenge with the USA lying in wait, although two wins may be enough to squeeze into the second round of games.
Monday is a rest day for the Tall Blacks.