New Zealand have lost their second Pool A game at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup, going down to France 80-69 in Cairo overnight to leave them at one win and one loss, with the 11-point margin not reflecting the competitive nature of the game.
The Anchor Junior Tall Blacks went toe to toe with their much higher ranked rivals for much of the game, leading the world number 7 French by one at halftime and were well in striking distance late in the final quarter.
Sam Waardenburg led the way for the young Kiwis, with 14 points and 9 rebounds, with good support from Quinn Clinton (13 points), and Tai Wynyard (12 and 5) as they gave the European Champions a genuine scare.
New Zealand won the rebounding battle 38-33 and shot with better accuracy than the French in all areas except free throws. But once again turnovers hurt the Anchor sponsored Junior Tall Blacks however, with 26 limiting their ability to put strong runs together, and in the end that weight of possession told against a quality French team.
“We played some great basketball and had a very good first half and maybe shocked them a little with our physical play,” said Head Coach Daryl Cartwright.
“Coming down the stretch we didn’t quite execute as we might have liked and France made some big shots. The score ballooned out with a soft turnover at the end and a couple of fouls. We had belief we could knock them over and we gave them a big scare, so for us there was a lot to take out of the game and a belief if that we can compete with the best from Europe then we can do the same against Argentina in our next match.”
Cartwright is confident his team will improve in looking after the ball, but suggested some of the turnovers were the result of trying to do the right thing.
“Some were classed as positive turnovers, we were maybe called for offensive fouls – but there were some in there that were mental errors or sloppy execution which we need to tidy up and be better. Part of that is absorbing pressure that we aren’t used to at this level – if we can tidy that up a little though it will help pile more pressure on our opposition.”
Waardenburg was a big contributor for the JTB’s, especially given the face he played a little longer than was initially planned as the New Zealanders were down a man before the game started.
“Sam had to play in longer stretches than I would have liked, Angus (McWilliam) was out with stomach virus and Tane picked up a couple of fouls early on and France are a big team so I couldn’t go smaller so Sam played longer than I would have liked and he did a good job – remember he really hasn’t played since December last year and only joined us at the end of our tour of China. He is finding his groove though and played well.
“Quinn had some big plays including a big three while Isaac was great on defence and worked tirelessly against French pressure. But everyone who took the floor made a positive contribution and Tai was massive early on – they had no answer to him even with double teams.”
Cartwright says his team will continue to work hard now in the time they have before facing Argentina in their final pool game on Wednesday morning NZT.
“We will look to be even more physical against Argentina in a couple of days. That was the plan today and we saw how effective it was in the first half, we need to step that intensity up again against Argentina and improve in all aspects of our game.”
Anchor Junior Tall Blacks 69
Waardenburg 14/9r, Clinton 13, Wynyard 12/5r, F Cameron 9/4a, J Aitcheson 5, I Letoa 4, T Samuel 4, T Cameron 3, C McRae 3, T Gillooly 2
Goudou Sinha 18, Vautier 12, Mokoka 12
Next up for New Zealand is a clash with world No 9 Argentina at 4:15am on Wednesday morning. Pool play will determine seedings going into the knockout rounds.