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Belgium get hot late in Reykjavik, freeze Iceland at -13
REYKJAVIK (FIBA EuroBasket 2021 Pre-Qualifiers) - Alexandre Libert and Sam Van Rossom were the one-two punch for Belgium, delivering a 79-66 knockout to Iceland.
Turning Point: The hosts were hanging in there for 37 minutes, and had a chance to make it a one-possession game inside the last three minutes, but Elvar Fridriksson missed a two-pointer, and Belgium made the hosts pay at the other end.
First, it was Sam Van Rossom who set up Alexandre Libert for a three-pointer, then they switched roles, taking Belgium from 68-63 to 74-64 in 90 seconds, good enough to protect their perfect record.
Stats Don't Lie: While Belgium's 12-of-29 and 41% from deep isn't all that impressive, they held their hosts to 8-of-25 from the same distance. And in a game which was so evenly balanced, four three-pointers were a huge part of the final gap between the two teams.
Game Hero: Coach Dario Gjergja's fingerprints are all over this Belgian team, and it is no surprise that nobody played more than 30 minutes, and four players ended up in double digits, with another one finishing with 9. The best of the bunch was Sam Van Rossom with 17 points and 4 assists, Libert's clutch three-pointer was his only field goal made in the entire game.
Game Notes: Belgium are putting their horrible FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 European Qualifiers First Round run behind them, and a 2-0 start is huge for them in a close group with Portugal and Iceland. Gjergja's boys are back on the road on Sunday, visiting Albufeira in Portugal.
They said: "We started the game strong and attacked them with pace and were aggressive. Our defense was giving us stops and we used that to fuel our offense. In the second quarter our defense started to give easy baskets and that's when they tied us and went up. When our defense stopped giving us good shots, we had to set up every offense and our game changed. I feel that we were creating a lot of good shots all over the court and making it difficult for them to guard us, but in the end our shots were not going down and that was our demise." - Hordur Axel Vilhjalmsson, Iceland
"Our first half was a little bit black and white. In the first quarter we managed to score a lot of points out of our defense. Getting stops and steals and transitioning the other way. In the second quarter, they managed to find some holes and weaknesses in our defense. Belgium shot the ball extremely well and we knew we had to give up something in our defense and they found the loopholes. But give them credit, they shot the ball extremely well, and they found solutions. We did a good job switching things up and forcing them to adjust. Their quality was a little bit too much for us today. It certainly would have helped us having Martin Hermannsson and Haukur Helgi Palsson, but that's the way it goes and hopefully they will be ready for February." - Craig Pedersen, Iceland head coach
"This was a tough game for us. They came out well today and then in the second quarter we started playing better and reacting better to the situation. We took nine points with us in the half and a nice advantage. In the second half we couldn't shake them off. They did a good job on switching defense and we did a good job solving the game in the last five minutes. I think the team reacted pretty good a couple of times when Iceland came with a run. We stayed together and played solid and made some stops and that brought us the win." - Sam Van Rossom, Belgium
"I am very happy today with this win. It was a tough travel and we are all new to each other. I am new, we have some new guys on the roster. We don't know each other and we play games and that's why this game and this win was so important. Both teams were missing some quality players but that's how it is and I'm happy for the guys because we are still getting to know each other. It is not easy to succeed with all the changes this team is going through. I told my guys we have to survive mentally because there will be a run and the momentum will shift to them. That is what happened in the game and we helped them a little bit, turning the ball over. They got easy shots out of that but that is probably normal when players don't know each other. But imagine what we could do if we had three or four weeks to practice and prepare together." - Dario Gjergja, Belgium head coach