|11||R. AKL||Did not play|
|15||F. EL KHATIB*||32||5/10||50||5/8||62.5||0/2||0||8/9||88.9||4||3||7||1||1||3||0||1||18|
|Min||Minutes played||Tot||Total rebounds||BS||Block Shots|
|%||Shooting percentage||PF||Personal fouls||*||Starters|
IZMIR (FIBA World Championship) – New Zealand’s emerging stars have set up an emphatic 108-76 victory over Lebanon to put the Tall Blacks within sight of the knockout rounds in Istanbul.
While all Lebanese eyes were on superstar Kirk Penney, it was Mika Vukona and 23 year old Thomas Abercrombie who sparked a stunning 32-16 first quarter. Abercrombie had 10 points in the first four minutes, while Vukona had 7 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists, a block and a steal for the quarter.
Penney fired, as expected, after the first quarter surge, finishing with 26 points on 6/10 from the perimeter, while Abercrombie (23 points, 7 rebounds), Vukona (11 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists), Phill Jones (13 points), Lindsay Tait (12 points) and Craig Bradshaw (10 points) also finished in double figures.
For Lebanon, only Fadi El Khatib put up strong resistance with 18 points and 7 rebounds, while Rony Fahed also tried hard and finished with 12 points.
Consecutive El Khatib buckets early in the second quarter brought the score to 34-22, the Lebanese fans to life and forced New Zealand coach Nenad Vucinic to call timeout. But Abercrombie answered immediately and the Tall Blacks defence shut the Cedars down.
When Penney nailed his first triple of the game and Abercrombie soared over Freije late in the quarter the Tall Blacks had a 51-32 half time lead.
The second half was a mere formality as Penney and Phill Jones filled it up from outside, setting up a 81-56 three quarter time lead and the eventual 32-point margin. A late one-handed Abercrombie alley-oop will go close to play of the tournament.
New Zealand face Canada tomorrow in a crunch game, while Lebanon must beat either Spain or Lithuania in their two remaining games to have any hope of progressing to the Eight Finals.
Craig Bradshaw (player): It was a battle the whole game, they played hard we just had to play harder. At half time we said we have to keep going at them, keep scoring and don’t let up.
Nenad Vucinic (coach): Congratulations to my team. They really played with their hearts, and with their heads, most of the time. For me as a coach, that was honestly the biggest win in my coaching career. I had coached against Tab in the 90s for many years in the New Zealand league and never won a game, because Tab is one of the best coaches in the world.
Thomas Abercrombie and Mika Vukona helped us with a lot of offensive rebounds, and that gave us confidence really to shoot the ball better. That was the key to the game, and also our turnover count was low.
Tab Baldwin (coach): The haka is special for New Zealanders. It always feels special whether you’re having done as part of a team that you are part of, or one of those occasions when you might have it done to you.
We were severely outplayed, and as Nenad said, we got dominated in those possession statistics like offensive rebounds and turnovers, it was almost impossible to win. And the fact that New Zealand did such a great job in those categories at the beginning of the game, they created that mood, that atmosphere in the game and they never let that momentum go.