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Great Britain down Greece for the first time in 37 years
NEWCASTLE (Great Britain) - It seemed to be business as usual for Greece in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 European Qualifiers until the final 10 minutes of the opener, with Great Britain coming out on top 78-69, thanks to their 56 percent shooting from deep to start their campaign on a high.
These two were matched up in the Qualifiers four years ago and played a couple of close games, but both of them went Greece's way. This time around it was Team GB's turn to celebrate, their first win over the European juggernaut in 37 years.
Their only win in 11 previous games against Greece came on May 20, 1984, during the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France, when Great Britain won 106-104 behind Rolan Way's 30 points.
Turning point: Greece were up 57-53 late in the third quarter, in control, staying a step or two ahead of Great Britain. But Teddy Okereafor knocked down a big three-pointer to end the quarter, cutting the gap to a single point.
It felt like that big bucket got Marc Steutel's team believing they could finally defeat Greece. They held Greece to just three points over the first seven minutes of the final quarter, creating a 20-3 run that got them from a 57-53 minus into a 73-60 plus.
Greece could do nothing to bounce back, starting their campaign with a loss.
Game hero: Teddy Okereafor knocked down two straight three-pointers in the aforementioned span to give the hosts the lead, and he finished the game with a team-high 19 points on 4-of-4 shooting from three-point range. An ideal way of celebrating his 50th consecutive cap for the national team.
When he was stopped, Luke Nelson stepped up to finish with 10 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists.
Stats don't lie: Great Britain knocked down 9-of-16 shots from beyond the arc, an impressive 56 percent. Greece hit one three-pointer less on 15 attempts more.
Bottom line: Looking at it from Great Britain's point of view, this win is even bigger since Belarus defeated Turkey, and it now opens up a possibility to go two wins ahead of Turkey if Team GB steal a win in Istanbul on Sunday. Greece can't afford to slip up against Belarus at home on Sunday.
They said: "We knew before the game what kind of team we were going to face, we knew they have players with personality and skills and they remain always aggressive on both ends, this is how they managed to get back into the game. I have a clear picture of everything that happened but some things we will keep among ourselves and discuss with the players." - Greece acting head coach Savvas Kamperidis
"In the first half we turned the ball over, we gave them the chance to score in transition and gave them easy looks as opposed to making them score over us. In the second half we had guys like Ashley Hamilton who came out and set the tone for us on both ends, they brought a lot of energy and this is contagious." - Great Britain guard Tarik Phillip
"I think you can see what this win means to the group, we were fortunate to have the support that we had, it was loud in there and it was great to have a game like this on home soil. What epitomizes our group is the final buzzer goes and everybody is looking forward to the next game. There were many elements that made up that second half performance but Teddy Okereafor to set a record that I don't will be broken and to hit these three-pointers against Greece, especially after playing part of his career in Greece, it was a really satisfying moment for him. Resilience is absolutely a trait of our group, we almost enjoy being with our backs against the wall." - Great Britain head coach Marc Steutel