Team GB just miss out on historic win

02 August 2012 / 22:23

Great Britain's men's basketball team came within one point of beating world number two Spain, losing 79-78 in a thrilling finale.

Britain overcame foul trouble for key duo Luol Deng and Pops Mensah-Bonsu to twice be two points down with a chance to tie in the final minute, but Spain's poise at the free throw line kept them in front and what would have been the greatest victory in the history of the modern British Basketball programme slipped away.

Spain had jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead on Rudy Fernandez's three-pointer but Joel Freeland was on a solo mission to keep them in check, scoring Britain's first eight points of the game. Spain responded with some outstanding play, with Jose Calderon's great movement creating an open basket for Marc Gasol.

The younger of the Gasol brothers was then caught in a brief skirmish with Mensah-Bonsu after fouling Robert Archibald, but Britain's greater worry was Spain's growing lead. Marc Gasol's lay-up gave them a 22-11 bulge before a fine reverse jump-shot from Deng ended the surge.

Deng inspired a fightback with a solo lay-up and great assist for Freeland, and a three-pointer from Andrew Lawrence had the score back to 35-29 shortly before half-time.

Britain fought hard to stay in touch as Spain pushed the lead to double figures early in the third. But foul trouble began to hurt them, with Mensah-Bonsu made to sit on four after making contact with Pau Gasol, who duly made it 46-35 from the line.

The real blow came late in the third when Deng, who had just made a great move to make it 50-41, was called for an offensive foul on the next drive to the basket. What would have been a 50-43 game became 52-41 as Fernandez drained the free throws and, more importantly, Deng joined Mensah-Bonsu on the bench with four fouls.

Spain soon lost Marc Gasol for the same reason and Britain kept battling, with Drew Sullivan making it 54-45 off a great assist from Lawrence.

Dan Clark swished a three early in the fourth to keep Britain in touch but Calderon replied with a long-ranger of his own. Deng returned to score two quick baskets which cut the gap to 64-56, and he then drew a foul to go to the line and make it a six-point game going into the final five minutes.

Freeland hit a three to make it 68-63 with 3:55 to go and Deng drove to the basket to make it a three-point game moments later. Pau Gasol's free throws stretched the lead and after Freeland over hit a three, his brother Marc added one more.

Freeland made back-to-back shots to make it 71-69 with 74 seconds left and after Pau Gasol came up short with a jump-shot, Britain had the chance to tie it. Instead, Fernando San Emeterio robbed Deng and Calderon put Spain four points clear.

Calderon's free throws increased the advantage, but Clark and Nate Reinking had threes to make it 77-75. Calderon went to the line again and kept his cool to stretch the lead to four, and Deng's dramatic late three-pointer was not enough. Deng had 26 points and nine rebounds while Freeland added 25 points.