RECAP: Ireland senior men lose to Malta in opening group game
June 27, 2018
The Ireland senior men’s team started their FIBA European Championship for Small Countries campaign with a tough loss against a physically dominant Malta in San Marino this afternoon.
In a game that was incredibly physical at both ends, Malta's superior size saw them take their second win of the group stage on a scoreline of 65-76. The loss now means that Pete Strickland's men face a winner-takes-all contest against Andorra tomorrow.
Ireland made a strong start to the game with the help of lightning quick Travis Black who was a thorn in the side of the Malta defense and talisman Taiwo Badmus. Things were looking good for the boys in green, as impact subs Adrian O’Sullivan and Patrick Lyons added extra intensity to the game and shot well from the three-point line giving Ireland an early lead.
The size and presence of Malta’s 7’6 centre Samuel Deguara caused trouble for the Irish inside, as he both blocked and altered numerous shots to see his team into a 19-22 lead at the end of the first.
Malta's Tevin Falzon came into the fore much more in the second quarter, hitting some big shots to swing momentum in their favour. Ireland, however, received a late burst of energy from a number of their bench players and finished the first half with a wonderful steal from Aidan Quinn and a fast break score from Lorcan Murphy to go into the break all-square, 37-37.
Pete Strickland's half-time team talk helped build on the momentum from the end of the second quarter, as as the boys in green took the lead with some quick scores through Keelan Cairns and Lorcan Murphy. Malta, however, never allowed Ireland to fully seize control and came back with some vital scores themselves to keep the game in the melting pot. A corner three from Jordan Blount helped keep Ireland in the game at the end of the third, but it was Malta who headed to the benches leading 51-56.
Ireland struggled to get into a rhythm offensively at the beginning of the fourth and Malta's big-man Aaron Falzon took full advantage, hitting some big shots for his country. Deguara continued to cause havoc inside, using his massive frame to draw many fouls, and in the end, Ireland just couldn't find the scores at key times and Malta were able to hold out, winning on a scoreline of 65-76.
IRELAND: Adrian O’Sullivan (15), Aidan Quinn, Lorcan Murphy (13), Patrick Lyons (7), Travis Black (9), Jordan Blount (7), Ciaran Roe (2), Matthew Kelly, Taiwo Badmus (5), Keelan Cairns (7), Eoghain Kiernan, Paul Freeman.
WATCH IT BACK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rci8U4T3Z4