Fan power! Finn power! The tournament "begins" on a winning note for Dettman’s team
BILBAO (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Finland point guard Petteri Koponen could have been mistaken for being almost philosophical at the end of the team's opening night loss to the USA.
It looked all blown out, as it did on the stats sheet, for the team that came to the FIBA Basketball World Cup via a wild card. Only that the 26-year-old Khimki playmaker saw more than a silver lining from that game.
"We begin our World Cup experience playing against the best team in the competition. Our real tournament begins now," he said.
How prophetic those words were to become with Finland unleashing a 19-0 run to open the second half of their second game in the competition and coasted through for their first win. The Finland party on the court had begun – to match the carnival on the stands.
Koponen himself played a pivotal role in Sunday's 81-76 win over Ukraine dishing out nine assists - against one turnover - while also scoring 14 points.
The Bizkaia Arena has for the last two days resembled an arena in Helsinki - with 8,000 fans screaming their throats hoarse in support of the Wolf Pack.
"They expect us to win," said coach Henrik Dettmann after leading Finland to their first-ever win at this level.
"They (the fans) have the right to expect another win from us. And we'll do our best to give them that (the win) every time we play," he added.
"This win also means we have earned our place to be here. There have been a lot of questions about our wild card. I think this win should answer all those questions," added Dettmann.
"To win at this level is great, but for us it's unfinished business yet," said Shawn Huff who paced the Finns with 23 points.
Not surprisingly, Dettmann and Huff were in a hurry to complete the post-game conference to join the thousands of travelling supporters awaiting them in the fan zone to tip off what is sure to be a long Sunday night at the Basque capital.