WCQ Game Recap, 11 Nov 2022: Tall Blacks 65, Lebanon 77


The Tall Blacks have crashed to their first loss in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers this year; falling 65-77 against a fired-up Lebanon team in front of a raucous Middle Eastern crowd.

After taking a 37-31 lead into the half, the Kiwis were outscored 12-0 to open the third as they went cold from outside. The Cedars took advantage of their superior size – and 25 total turnovers by New Zealand – to outscore the Tall Blacks 46-28 in the second half, finishing strong in the final minutes of the game.

Tohi Smith-Milner led the Kiwis with 17 points (4/10 from outside) & 7 rebounds, Ethan Rusbatch had 13 points, Taylor Britt with 11 and Hyrum Harris tallied 7 points & 8 rebounds. The game also saw the debuts of Alex McNaught (5 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists) and Anzac Rissetto.

For the Cedars, Ali Haidar top-scored with 21 points, while Jad Khalil tallied 11 points and Hayk Gyokchyan and Karim Zeinoun scored 10 apiece.

The first quarter saw the Kiwis build a 22-18 lead, thanks to 9 points from Rusbatch off the bench – including a layup to end the frame – and Smith-Milner shooting 2-2 from deep for his 6 points. Harris also a strong contributor with 4 points and 4 rebounds.

The Tall Blacks were able to maintain their lead throughout the 2nd quarter, with Britt allowed to penetrate to the rim for his 9 points alongside Smith-Milner’s 9; Rusbatch a concern after picking up his 3rd foul midway through the period. Although the Kiwis led 37-31 at half-time on 50% shooting – while holding the Cedars to 32% – there was plenty of room for improvement with the Tall Blacks held to 23% shooting from three (3/13) and turning the ball over 12 times to Lebanon’s 8.

The tide turned in the second half as the Cedars went on a 12-0 run to start the period; the Kiwis held scoreless until the 5.46 minute mark when Jordan Ngatai sank a pair of free throws to make it 39-43. New Zealand were outscored 22-11 in this pivotal third quarter to be behind 48-53 heading into the fourth; the Kiwis unable to match Lebanon’s increased energy at both ends.

The score ballooned out in the final minutes of the fourth, with Lebanon taking a surprising 77-65 win – handing the Tall Blacks their first WCQ loss in 2022. The number tell a story of a young and undersized New Zealand squad being outmatched in several facets of the game; committing more turnovers (25) than field goals made (22), making just 5/27 three pointers at a 18% clip and giving up 14 offensive rebounds for the game. New Zealand also underperformed in assists (9 dimes versus 21 for Lebanon) and registered just three steals against the Cedar’s 12.

Tall Blacks head coach, Pero Cameron was blunt in his assessment of the game.

“Tough game; both sides were contesting the game and it was a tough challenge for us. I felt towards the end it was a three to five point game and then a little bit of our discipline got away in the end and [the score] blew out,” says Cameron.

Smith-Milner agreed that the team’s play in the final minutes of the game – combined with turnovers – hurt the Tall Blacks chances down the stretch.

“I think for us it was just composure down the end, especially in that last 3 minutes. And having 25 turnovers for the game definitely didn’t help us,” says Smith-Milner.

The Tall Blacks will regroup for their next game; vs Jordan @ 5am NZT on Monday 14 Nov. Watch live on Spark Sport.



New Zealand 65 – Smith-Milner 5 PTS & 7 REB | Rusbatch 13 PTS | Britt 11 PTS | Harris 7 PTS & 8 REB | Hunt 6 PTS | McNaught 5 PTS | Ngatai 4 PTS & 5 REB | Fotu 2 PTS

Lebanon 77 – Haidar 21 PTS | Khalil 11 PTS | Gyokchyan 10 PTS | Zeinoun 10 PTS

Quarter scores: 22-18, 37-31, 48-53, 65-77.

Full box score: http://bbnz.link/0cqag