Turkey defeats Hungary 69-68 (box score)
Hungarian centre Virág Kiss spoke on the big versatility her side had after yesterday’s win against Slovakia: “The most important thing, we have three really good post players so they can rotate us so that’s really good.” This was key as they came up against a team that has a clear target in Teaira McCowan. After a slow start for the Turkish big, Hungary’s depth was on full display. McCowan had four first-half points and only one basket, but that didn’t stop Turkey from targeting her every possession.
For all my coding freaks out there, I believe Turkey’s first option offensively may be summarised as follows:
IF MCCOWAN_ON_COURT=1, BALL->PASS=INSIDE
IF MCCOWAN_ON_COURT=0, BALL->SHOOT=OUTSIDE
Although this may seem like an oversimplified game plan, things broke well for Turkey against Hungary. They had a lot of success in the mid-range after causing defensive breakdowns, especially late. Even with the Hungarians winning the inside battle, Turkey found enough space on enough jump shots at the right time. After trailing all game they came out victorious.
Both of these teams move to 1-1 going into the day off. Each of their final games in the group stage will be unmissable.
France defeats Great Britain 63-57 (box score)
At 7:45pm on 15 June, Great Britain was wrapping things up against Slovenia. At 2:30pm on 16 June they were warming up against France. After such a short turnaround, the Brits were sure to have a slow start and being matched up with such a formidable opponent only compounded the issue.
France was clinical once again. They aren’t here to make highlights, they’re here to make you feel like you can’t win. They can be down ten and the feeling in the arena is that their opposition doesn’t stand a chance. Their approach is methodical with a trust that, over 40 minutes, they will win if they stick to their game.
As for this game, France had the lead up until a Sydney Wallace three tied things up at 33 halfway through the third. After a French timeout, they understood what was needed the rest of the way. For the last quarter and a half, Great Britain’s focus was basketball and France’s was winning. The ability to flip that switch mixed in with their experience separates them from the pack and is key to why they are one of the tournament’s favourites.
Temi Fagbenle spoke on such an experience after the game: “It could have gone either way if we really dug deep and did the intangibles. It just… showed why they’re one of the best teams in the world.”
Germany defeats Slovenia 66-62 (box score)
20 minutes ’til game time with Carpe Diem by Joker Out playing only meant one thing; the host nation was about to tip-off. Both Slovenia and Germany were looking to get in the win column during the second day of action. Germany’s youth is a distinguishing characteristic of their identity, eager to be in attack mode all game long. Meanwhile, Slovenia was out to another solid start, with hopes that this game would finish differently from their first outing; unfortunately, it didn’t. Their offence hasn’t looked like a system as much as it has looked dependent on individual brilliance while their defence has been leaky and inconsistent.
Other than a run that ignited the crowd at the end of the third, Slovenia didn’t get much going. On this run, German wing Lina Sontag shared: “I think it’s really hard. Obviously everyone’s like keep it out of your mind but it’s not that easy… if you stick together as a group, hype each other up and get into your huddles quick, it just keeps you in the game, focused and not focusing on everything that going on on the outside.”
This teamwork and grit was key in bringing home the win for the Germans. Sontag added: “In the end, it was just about who wanted it more. Everyone was tired, you could tell, everyone was on the court just jogging. I feel like we just had more energy, just brought more will and that’s how we got the win.”
It’s not looking like either of these nations will be giving contenders any problems in the finals yet Germany’s new-look team has gained valuable experience and showed great resolve against a veteran French side as well as the hosts. As for Slovenia, it’s fair to say that the group stage hasn’t gone as planned having given up a big lead in the first game and failed to maximise on another hot start in the second.
Serbia defeats Slovakia 90-52 (box score)
Serbia is rolling now. They came out the gates hot and never looked back. As I said in the first article, they’re on a mission. They aren’t cheating the game, they aren’t skipping steps, they’re treating basketball with honesty and care and being rewarded for it. There isn’t much to report from Slovakia’s side of things on this one, other than the rattlers their fans had in the crowd was a great illustration of how rattled their nation looked on the hardwood.
With ten players seeing court time in the first seven minutes of the game, Serbian head coach Marina Maljkovic sprinkled some radical 6D coaching into the mix. The craziest part is that Serbia didn’t miss a beat.
Jovana Nogić was one of these early rotations off the bench. On maintaining the momentum the starters created she said: “Coming off of the bench it has to be even higher energy than the five that are on the court because we are fresh, we are rested. We need to bring new energy defensive-wise, offensive wise we’re not worried about it, it will come from the defensive end.”
It has been a joy to watch this team through two games (and one practice I was informed was supposed to be a closed session (sorry FIBA)) and fans should be expecting a deep run. It feels as though they have found a rhythm and Nogić went on to say: “We’re getting into the rhythm, still fixing some mistakes whether that be on defence or offence. As long as the energy is there and the will and getting on the floor for every loose ball, the errors will look small.”
Serbia’s ability to turn their opponents over and get out in transition is unlike anything else the teams in Group C or D have shown. They dictate the pace from the defensive end. Who the fuck has the gall and posture to dictate the pace of a game from the defensive end while simultaneously having confidence in the game plan to turn their opponents over repeatably? Only the very best can answer this question and Serbia is just that.
Heading into the first break Group C has France in the lead with two wins, with Great Britain and Germany registering a win each while Slovenia is in last, yet to post a victory. As for Group D, Serbia has two wins, Hungary and Turkey have one and Slovakia bringing in the rear with zero. A lot will hang on the outcome of the final day of the group stage for both Groups C and D.