The Tall Blacks have been beaten 72-99 by the United States overnight, in their first FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup game in Manila, Philippines.
The Kiwis impressed in the first quarter, building a 14-4 lead early against the highly-favoured Americans and ending the quarter down by one, 18-19. But a high foul count and turnovers stymied New Zealand’s effort and helped the United States to pull away after half-time.
New Zealand was led by Reuben Te Rangi’s 15 points, while Finn Delany added 12 points & 5 rebounds and Shea Ili had 5 assists to go with his 12 points. Yanni Wetzell chipped in with 10, Izayah Le’afa hit a trio of threes for his 9 points and 3 steals, and Flynn Cameron added 5.
For the Americans, Pancho Paolo Banchero top scored with 21 points on 8-10 shooting along with 4 blocks. Anthony Edwards added 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Jaren Jackson Jr. and Austin Reaves scored 12 apiece. Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton each added 10. The Americans outrebounded the Kiwis 41-33, while also holding New Zealand to just 36% from the field – thanks mostly to their renewed defensive effort in the second half.
The game began with the Kiwis taking control early, forcing the Americans into a quick trio of turnovers. With Wetzell scoring twice in the paint, followed by a triple from Te Rangi and a tough layup from Ili, the Tall Blacks were suddenly up by five with three minutes gone. That lead soon grew to 14-4 following a three by Delany, leaving the United States on their heels and needing a timeout.
The Americans would soon settle, reducing the deficit thanks to drawing a series of fouls on their drives to the rim. An 8-0 run by USA saw them down by only two, before a Delany drive put the lead back to 16-12 with just over a minute left in the quarter.
The foul count started to become an issue at this point; the Kiwis guilty of eight fouls in the period, with the Americans scoring 6 of their points on free throws. New Zealand ended the quarter down 18-19 thanks to a buzzer-beating layup by Taylor Britt; the Kiwis holding the U.S. to 6/15 from the field and forcing 6 turnovers in a solid effort.
Te Rangi opened the second quarter with a triple, then soon followed with his third three pointer and a layup shortly after to put New Zealand back up 26-25 with seven minutes remaining. With Ili heading to bench after picking up his third foul, the Americans quickly went on a 5-0 run; the Kiwis keeping it close thanks to a pair of triples from Le’afa.
With New Zealand’s shooting starting to go cold – hitting 6-17 from the field – in the tail end of the period, and with Delany and Wetzell joining Ili on the bench with three fouls, the United States outscored the Kiwis 26-18 in the half. Te Rangi led all scores at half-time with 11; Edwards with 8 for the United States. The most telling stat of the half was the foul count; the Kiwis collecting 16 in the first two quarters versus the American’s 8.
The third quarter saw both teams trading basket for basket over the first three minutes, the Americans ahead by 10 but unable to pull away. With Delany heading back to the bench with his fourth foul, the U.S. soon went on a 8-0 run, building the score to 64-47 before Tohi Smith-Millner hit a trio of free throws. It was at this point that Banchero started to heat up, scoring a quick 8 points include a pair of threes as the Americans built a 76-58 lead heading into the final period.
The fourth quarter saw both teams again going tit-for-tat in the scoring column, with the USA leading by 20 points thanks to a thunderous dunk by Jackson Jr, before Le’afa and Haliburton traded shots from outside the arc. With five minutes left and the Kiwis down by 15, the Tall Blacks were held scoreless for a four minute stretch as the American’s defence tightened. A 14-2 United States run to end to the game helped give the United States a solid 27-point victory.
Following the game, captain Reuben Te Rangi reflected on the team’s effort over both halves.
“The first half we came out, we had a lot of fight; in the second half we lost a bit of our legs there but overall I think we can take a lot of things from this game and into our next two must-win games,” says Te Rangi.
“We need to come out for 40 minutes and have that fight for the whole 40 minutes, defensively we need to take a few things from that game and work on those things we didn’t do very well. But overall we’re going to take a lot of good things from this game so we can compete against these next two teams.”
Coach Cameron says he is proud of his players and they will now collectively shift their focus onto the next game versus Jordan.
“We’re always aiming to have a complete game, and it’s hard to maintain what you want to do. There’s always things you must adjust to, that’s what competition is about; along the way we fell in some areas we want to improve on,” says Cameron.
“It was a good test for us, a big challenge – and I’m very proud of how we came out and the whole game in general, so I’m looking forward to the next game.”
Next up for the Tall Blacks is a clash with Jordan on Mon 28 August at 8.45pm NZT. Watch all games live and free at TVNZ+ and Duke.
New Zealand 72 – Te Rangi 15 PTS | Delany 12 PTS & 5 REB | Wetzell 10PTS | Le’afa 9 PTS & 3 STL | Ili 12 PTS & 5 AST | Cameron 5 PTS | Fotu 4 PTS & 5 REB | Smith-Milner 3 PTS | Britt 2 PTS
United States 99 – Banchero 21 PTS & 4 BLK | Edwards 14 PTS & 7 REB | Reaves 12 PTS & 6 AST | Jackson Jr. 12 PTS | Brunson 10 PTS | Haliburton 10 PTS | Bridges 7 PTS
Quarter scores: 19-18, 45-36, 76-58, 99-72
Box score: http://bbnz.link/NZLvsUSA
Tall Blacks 1st Round Schedule – FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup
New Zealand vs USA – Sunday 27 August, 12.40am NZT (lost 72-99)
New Zealand vs Jordan – Monday 28 August, 8.45pm NZT
New Zealand vs Greece – Thursday 31 August, 12.40am NZT