England has suffered a tough first-up loss to Scotland on the opening night of the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Townsville. During a see-sawing battle, Scotland was able to make plays down the stretch as a 29-17 final quarter propelled them to a 78-65 victory.
While coach Andreas Kapoulas was clearly disappointed immediately following the game, he said it was critical that England quickly put the 13-point loss behind them ahead of their next encounter against India on Saturday.
“We’ve got to now get back to us,” Kapoulas said. “We’ve got to make sure that we don’t get ahead of us – the group games have just started – it’s more important that we don’t look back but look forward to the next game.”
After a slow start, Callum Jones opened England’s scoring at the tournament as he pushed the ball in transition and made his way to the rim. When Adam Thoseby connected from beyond the arc shortly after, England seized their first lead of the game but Scotland was able to fight back through Gareth Murray and Kieron Achara.
The influence of the Scottish forwards would prove telling as the match wore on as Murray paced his team early in the encounter en route to a game high 18 points. Despite some early shooting woes, Achara proved a handful in his own right as he posted 15 points and eight rebounds.
"It's all about playing as a team,” Achara said. “We are a proud nation, we played hard and we wanted it more. Our team has a belief in ourselves and it was enough to carry us through."
While Scotland made the early running, Shane Walker began to impose himself on the contest as he drained back-to-back three-pointers – the latter contributing to a rare four-point play – as England went into quarter-time leading 19-17.
A 1-9 run to start the second quarter swung momentum to Scotland, however, as they began to pressure England in the half-court. Back-to-back baskets from Rob Gilchrist, who would finish with seven points, seven rebounds and two telling blocks, allowed England to claw their way back as Orlan Jackman (Five points, nine rebounds and five assists) did a good job of finding the open man. With England in the bonus, Walker knocked down four consecutive free throws to end the half before finishing with a team-high 17 points and seven rebounds.
Trailing 32-35 at the break, England made a slow start to the second half as Scotland began to creep away once again before Kofi Josephs caught fire. The 26-year-old splashed 10 points for the frame – the last from the carpark as the three-quarter-time buzzer expired – to trim the margin to 48-49 at the final change.
“We just weren’t able to get into our (offensive) sets in the way that we wanted to,” Josephs said.
“They played good defence – I think we may have underestimated a little bit but we will learn from that. I was able to finally get the ball through the hoop. Once it goes through, it becomes a little bit easier but we tried to focus on defence first and then the scores will come. But unfortunately we weren’t able to do that the whole time.”
With the match going down to the wire, England was hurt on the offensive glass and Michael Vigor made them pay as he rattled off eight quick points to open up a double-digit lead. Scotland was able to maintain that margin as the game wore on as they registered an impressive win to commence the 2018 Games.
“They’re very well coached, they’re very well drilled,” Kapoulas said. “They played really good team basketball today. We did not shoot the ball well, we had stretches on the defensive end where were not very well connected. The better team won. They wanted it more and I think the better team won today.”