The Australian Spinners have dropped their opening game of the Under-23 World Championships but a promising second half will give them confidence heading into the remaining games of the group stage.
Facing Iran in the first game of the tournament held in Toronto, Canada, a few nerves were evident in the Spinners starting line-up and they fell behind by eight points quickly.
Jeremy Tyndall (12 points) helped steady the ship but Mohammadhassan Sayari (27 points, 13 rebounds) proved a difficult match-up and his efficient offence pushed Iran’s lead out to as much as 18 points in the first half.
Coach Luke Brennan altered his defensive plan from there, going into a full court press and the change was evident instantly as Iran turned the ball over and struggled at times to even get the ball over half-court.
Brian Carminati (eight points, five rebounds), Steve Elliott (five rebounds, one steal) and Jake Fulwood (12 points, four boards) were the main instigators with Fulwood also able to impact the game at the other end of the floor as a 21-13 third quarter brought the Spinners right back into the contest.
Tom O’Neill-Thorne (25 points, nine rebounds, six assists) performed strongly for the Aussies all game and his speed up the court as well as his ability to weave through the defence as the match wore on proved to be almost unstoppable.
The Spinners cut the deficit to one on four consecutive possessions down the stretch but they were never able to get their nose in front and eventually time ran out as they lost, 68-72.
“It is always disappointing to lose a game,” said coach Brennan.
“However, there are plenty of positives we can take out of this game.
“The fact we now have a long turn around before we play again will be great for our recovery and preparation.”
As well as their slow start, the Spinners will rue an 8-20 effort from the free-throw line but their depth was proven with a 27-3 advantage off the bench.
Australia will next hit the floor at 8am AEST on June 10 (Saturday) against the host nation.
“Playing against Canada is always going to be tough, we need to be locked in for the full 40 minutes,” said Brennan.
The Australian Under-23 Spinners World Championship Schedule (all times AEST):
June 10: Australia vs. Canada at 8am
June 11: Australia vs. Brazil at 12am
June 12: Australia vs. Italy at 8am
June 13: Australia vs. Turkey at 12pm
June 15: Quarter-Finals
June 16: Semi-Finals
June 17: Bronze and Gold Medals