Tall Blacks come up short at FIBA Basketball World Cup

8:13 am on 6 September 2019

The Tall Blacks have missed out on the second round of the Basketball World Cup with an agonising 103-97 loss to Greece in their final pool game.

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

Photo: Photosport / Jayne Russell

It was a rocky start for New Zealand with several players getting into foul trouble trying to guard NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Antetokounmpo went on an 11 point run as New Zealand's bigs failed to stop the 6'11" 'Greek Freak' from getting to the rim.

Greece took a nine point lead at the first break, up 28-19, that ultimately put the Tall Blacks on the back foot for the rest of the game.

New Zealand did fight back though, winning the next two quarters to get to within five points of the eighth ranked side with 10 minutes remaining.

But the Tall Blacks could never quite catch up with Greece, no matter how hard they fought, eventually losing by six, despite two threes from Corey Webster and captain Tom Abercrombie in the final minute.

Abercrombie said they toiled hard.

"If we'd been able to get a tied game and really put the pressure on them I think we would have given ourselves a really good shot but we just couldn't quite close that final gap, it was tough out there, we were fighting hard, really battling, up against it sometimes but yeah disappointing."

Webster was again the standout performer offensively for New Zealand, finishing with 31 points, the most of anyone on the court, to go with four assists and three rebounds.

Abercrombie also had a night to remember with 18 points and six rebounds while Tai Webster had 17 points.

Antetokounmpo top scored for Greece side with 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.

Abercrombie said the earlier loss to Brazil was the one that hurt the most.

"The one that will really linger will be that Brazil game, you know it was one that we should have had, that was the really disappointing one. Obviously a good win against Montenegro but it was always going to be tough against the Greeks, we gave it a great shot ...at the end of the day three really tough teams in our pool, we were up against it but proud about the way we played."

With two losses and a win, New Zealand miss the second round of the tournament, but head to Dongguan for two classification matches that go towards world ranking points and Olympic qualification for next year.

Australia continued their impressive form in the Basketball World Cup with an 87-82 win over Lithuania and secured a berth in the 2020 Olympic Games while holders United States cruised to a 98-45 rout of Japan.

The Czech Republic stunned Turkey 91-76 to secure a last-16 berth in the 32-nation tournament.