FIBA Basketball World Cup: Tall Blacks pool blown wide open ... or closed?

8:17 am on 4 September 2019

The celebrations were short lived for the Tall Blacks following their victory over Montenegro at the Basketball World Cup after Brazil shifted the dynamic of their group with a shock win over Greece.

New Zealand clinched its first win of the tournament with a 93-83 victory over Montenegro with a stellar fourth quarter performance from shooting guard Corey Webster and power forward Tohi Smith-Milner.

Webster nailed two big three point attempts early in the fourth quarter to finish with 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds while Smith-Milner drilled a three of his own midway through the fourth quarter to seal New Zealand's victory.

Read more of our FIBA coverage:

  • FIBA Basketball World Cup: Tall Blacks beat Montenegro in Nanjing
  • Tall Blacks lose 102-94 to Brazil in World Cup opener
  • Bluffing your way through the FIBA Basketball World Cup
  • Year of the Cups: Basketball World Cup 2019
  • The match wasn't without controversy - Montenegro's coach Zvezdan Mitrovic was ejected before the end of the first half after receiving two technical fouls for verbally abusing the referees.

    Montenegro assistant coach Bosko Radovic, who became the lead coach when Mitrovic was ejected, was also given a technical foul for verbal abuse midway through the third quarter.

    In his post match press conference, Mitrovic continued his barrage of abuse towards the officiators.

    "The guys feel like somebody robbed them, somebody stealing something from you, you know.

    "We are a small country, we understand [that it's] our first time in the World Cup, but we need [the referees] to respect us a little bit. Four or five technical fouls [against us] that is really crazy," Mitrovic said.

    Montenegro's star player, NBA centre Nikola Vucevic, was more gracious in defeat than his coach.

    "It is what it is, that's how the game was reffed and we had to react better.

    "The bench was reacting too much, we as players had too many reactions, arguing with the referees all the time and it takes your focus away from the game. The referees were straight, they gave us warnings, we didn't react the way we needed to and it is what it is."

    FIBA World Cup Basketball 2019 Group phase match.Group F Match F3 New Zealand vs Montenegro : Centre Rob Loe talks about a penalty shoot

    Centre Rob Loe during the Tall Blacks match against Montenegro. Photo: Photosport / Jayne Russell

    Vucevic conceded New Zealand was the better team on the night and that they did a good job of shutting him and his fellow Montenegro bigs out.

    One of the Tall Blacks responsible for that was centre Rob Loe who relished the chance of squaring off against Vucevic.

    "That's why we enjoy the world cups, you go against the best in the world and he's one of the best centres in the world.

    "Whilst Pauli [Henare] and Pero [Cameron] had a great game plan for us coming into the game, we executed really well," Loe said.

    Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare agreed with Loe, he said New Zealand were a much different side that lose to Brazil on Sunday.

    "I feel like we rebounded much better... defensively we were more locked in to the assignments and what we were doing with our change ups and things like that.

    "I mean that's a really good team we just beat, there's no doubt about that, and for us to get that and stay alive in this tournament is great."

    How long they'll be alive will be answered on Thursday when they face tournament favourites and the eighth ranked side in the world - Greece.

    The side, led by NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo, was upset by Brazil 79-78 shortly after New Zealand's victory, catapulting Brazil to the top of Group F and securing a place in the second round.

    Corey Webster in the Tall Blacks' match against Montenegro

    Corey Webster in action in the Tall Blacks' match against Montenegro Photo: Photosport / Jayne Russell

    New Zealand were expecting Greece to beat Brazil and then were relying on Montenegro to beat Brazil in their final pool game to have second place in Group F decided by points differential.

    Now New Zealand will have to beat Greece outright to qualify for the next round.

    That will be no easy task for the Tall Blacks, but New Zealand is one of only four teams to reach the final 16 in its last three World Cup appearances.

    For that to happen this time though, they'll have to shut down one of the world's best basketballers - easy, right?

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