London 2012: Tottenham Olympian shows his class but GB are court out
Men’s basketball - Group B: Russia 95 Great Britain 75
Haringey’s Pops Mensah-Bonsu and Drew Sullivan started for Great Britain tonight as the hosts started their basketball campaign – but they were defeated in their opening fixture in Group B.
Having lost two warm-up games against Russia in America last month, it was the same story again at the Olympics this evening.
However, there were plenty of positives for Britain – including the performance of Mensah-Bonsu, who grew up in Tottenham and scored 22 of his side’s 75 points.
The 28-year-old attended St Thomas More school in Wood Green as a youngster and also represented Haringey in the London Youth Games.
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He was his side’s second-highest scorer behind Chicago Bulls star Luol Deng, who netted 26 points, while Sullivan – who also represented Haringey at the Youth Games – battled hard in defence against the 11th-ranked team in the world and added two points of his own.
It was Deng who recorded the first score in a tight first quarter, with the lead changing hands several times.
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The two teams were level with 18-18 after eight minutes but, despite a successful free throw from Mensah-Bonsu, the visitors finished the first period on top with a 24-19 lead.
Another two penalty throws from Mensah-Bonsu narrowed the gap, but Russia enjoyed a five-minute purple patch and went 13 points ahead at 38-25 midway through the second quarter.
Mensah-Bonsu added another six points in the second quarter, including a spectacular slam-dunk to take his tally to 11 points for the first half.
Dan Clark also chipped in with a stunning three-pointer – but the tourists extended their lead and went into the interval 15 points up at 49-34.
Britain slowly chipped into that lead in the third quarter, and when Deng bolted from one end of the court to the other, scored and converted a penalty shot, the hosts were just 10 points down at 66-56.
They had the chance to make it eight as Deng won another two free throws – but he missed them both, and went on to miss another two late in the quarter, allowing Russia to extend their winning margin back to 13 points at 71-58.
Deng briefly cut the lead to 12 points in the final period, but Russia rapidly accelerated away and established a 20-point advantage, while Sullivan was forced to take a seat on the bench after committing his fifth foul of the match.
Mensah-Bonsu scored five free throws and a slam dunk as GB matched Russia’s scores in the closing stages, but the damage had already been done.
Britain, who must finish in the top four out of the six teams in Group B to qualify for the quarter-finals, will be in action again on Tuesday against Brazil (4.45pm).