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Tall Blacks go down to World Cup favourites

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The MBO Tall Blacks had another fierce workout against one of the World Cup favourites in world number three ranked Serbia in China tonight, going down 78-88 to the European heavyweights at the Four Nations tournament.

The New Zealanders struggled to match up in the paint against the tremendous size of the Serbians, and lost the rebound count 43-28, and despite shooting the three at just 33%, managed to stay in touch with their much-vaunted opponents throughout large parts of the game.

Tai Webster returned to form after his frustrations against France, posting 16 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals in 27 minutes, as he and brother Corey shared the guard duties in the absence of Jarrod Kenny and Shea Ili who both sat the game out as they manage minor muscle strains.

Tohi Smith-Milner was impressive from deep, making all three of his three pointers while Rob Loe showed no ill effects of his calf strain that saw him miss the France game last night, with 10 points and five rebounds. Alex Pledger also took aim from distance, with his only shot being a successful three - his first in a competitive game since the New Zealand NBL in 2010.

Assistant Coach Ross McMains says that while the loss is again a tough one to stomach, the focus continues to be on the big prize, the World Cup and the Tall Blacks opening game against Brazil on 1 September.

"I thought more than anything we got better at what we are doing tonight, playing against a high-level team like Serbia - no different to playing against France last night. The stuff we talked about as a group in terms of continuing to try and perfect what we are doing offensively and defensively I thought we showed growth at both ends, and that was great for us.

"So much about this tour is about us, what we are trying to build to be ready on September 1st against Brazil. Serbia brings a size that is probably unmatched in international basketball and that was something to deal with tonight that hopefully serves as resistance training for us and makes it easier when we play against smaller lineups."

McMains is less concerned about the shooting percentages at this stage of the build up and more looking at the system they are running and the open looks they are creating.

"Offensively for us right now is about the process. We have to buy into if we are consistently creating good looks for us, regardless of whether we are missing or making, that is our focus right now. We are looking to build to be the best team we can be on September 1st. The shots we created tonight for the most part were very good. We had too many turnovers in the first half and there are some things to clean up there from an execution standpoint, but I think we are making the strides forward that we need to.

"Everyone on this team has had a night when they have shot the ball at a high level, we just need that perfect storm to hit at the right time."

McMains is not shying away from the tough schedule either, saying the three games in three days at the Four Nations in China will prepare them well for the rigors of the World Cup.

"Three games in a row is tough. I am not sure if these guys have done that since playing U12’s with their local associations and we are talking about playing at pro level with the physicality that is going on. I think physically and mentally it will be a great test for us, especially with the type of basketball we are looking to play and the effort we are asking from these guys, but it is only going to make us better."

That third game is against world number 13 Italy, again in the steel city of Anshan, with the team then set to depart for Nanjing and the final days of preparation for the Brazil clash.

Final score:

MBO Tall Blacks 78 (T Webster 16, Loe 10, Smith-Milner 10)

Serbia 88


MBO Tall Blacks v Italy

Anshan, China

Monday 26th August

7:30 tip off (11:30pm NZT)

MBO Tall Blacks, FIBA World Cup Roster:

Guards: Shea Ili, Wellington Saints/Melbourne United; Jarrod Kenny, Bay Hawk’s/Cairns Taipans; Tai Webster, Galatasaray; Corey Webster, NZ Breakers; Ethan Rusbatch, Bay Hawks;

Small Forwards: Tom Abercrombie, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Jordan Ngatai, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers;

Power Forwards: Isaac Fotu, Universo Treviso; Finn Delany, Nelson Giants/NZ Breakers;

Centres: Alex Pledger, Southland Sharks/Melbourne United; Rob Loe, Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers; Tohi Smith-Milner, Melbourne United;


Head Coach: Paul Henare

Assistant Coach: Pero Cameron

Assistant Coach: Ross McMains

Physiotherapist: Anousith Bouaaphone

Massage Therapist: Shelley Moana-Hiha

Doctor: Hamish Osborne

Manager: Andrew Dewhurst


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