With the start of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers just around the corner, the Netherlands and Great Britain faced off in back-to-back warm-up games in Manchester and while the Dutch won both encounters, each of the two sides found reasons to feel satisfied.
The Netherlands travelled to Manchester in the wake of a loss to Portugal in a friendly last week, but in their two days in the UK they appear to have recovered the steely defence that has been their hallmark under coach Toon Van Helfteren and served them so well during their two most recent campaigns, the qualification race for FIBA EuroBasket 2015 in summer 2014 and the big tournament itself last September.
Van Helfteren’s men held Great Britain to only 24 points in the entire opening half of their first clash and jumped to an unassailable 56-24 lead by the half-time interval. Great Britain however looked like a different team after the break and cut the deficit by 20 points, albeit this was not enough to prevent an 83-71 Dutch win.
All-round swingman Worthy de Jong featured for only 20 minutes but scored a team-high 15 points for the winners, shooting guard Yannick Franke had 14 points while each of Arvin Slagter and Thomas Koenis finished with 13 points, the latter also adding four rebounds. For Great Britain, Kyle Johnson and Gabe Olaseni picked up 13 points apiece.
The roles were somewhat reversed in the second game on Saturday as the British built a 41-37 lead by the end of the second quarter but the Dutch out-scored their hosts 18-8 in the final frame and sealed a 79-68 victory.
De Jong this time came up with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, Franke chipped in with 15 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the floor and Charlon Kloof added 10 points and 6 boards. Andrew Lawrence scored 14 points and Ben Gordon finished with 13 for Great Britain in losing efforts.
“We really struggled to score down the stretch,” commented Great Britain head coach Joe Prunty. “They hit some tough shots and one of the things that hurt us was the free-throw difference in the second half. We couldn't keep them off the line and we only got to the line ourselves four times. I liked our aggressiveness but unfortunately, down the stretch, we didn't execute offensively or defensively. When it comes to the qualifiers, we've got to compete on every play.”
The Dutch play host to Austria in the premiere of the FIBA EuroBasket 2017 Qualifiers Group B, while Great Britain travel to Hungary for their Group G opener on Wednesday.