basketball

Preview: GB look for strong finish to punch ticket back to EuroBasket

Great Britain’s Senior Women know what is required when they step back onto the floor in Riga to complete their bid to qualify for FIBA Women’s EuroBasket 2021.

November’s emphatic win over Poland helped Chema Buceta’s side boost their chances, and they remain in control of their own fate with victory enough to advance – whilst winning the group in the process.

For more on their qualification chances, see HERE

Defence, defence, defence

GB won’t be thinking about their 31-point loss in Manchester when the two teams last met – partly because it was about 5 years ago in November, 2019 – nor will they have raised hopes too much based on Belarus’ 12-point loss to Poland on Wednesday. Thursday is a new day, though if Belarus shoot 1-of-20 from 3-point range again, then that might be more than half the battle won.

That previous defeat was a rare off-night for GB under the reign of Chema Buceta, but defence has been supreme more often than not, as was the case in holding Poland to just 49 points last time out. GB will be well aware of the threat Belarus possess, led by the all-round talents of Anastasiya Verameyenka and leading scorer Maryia Papova.

GB flourish when their defence leads to offence and they will be looking to set the tone on that side of the floor. And, when points differential could prove decisive in defeat, every possession counts.

Double trouble in the paint

The potential of the partnership of Temi Fagbenle and Kristine Anigwe has not even scratched the surface yet. If GB qualify for EuroBasket then the inside duo could prove to be a dominant tandem on the big stage in the summer.

It’s coming up to a year since Anigwe made a debut for GB – with injury limiting her initial impact – and the LA Sparks centre had her best game in a GB vest in November’s win with 15 points and eight rebounds.

Fagbenle is amongst the international elite, with the WNBA champion playing an even more important role in the absence of veteran leaders. The 28-year-old has been a key contributor to GB’s success over the years, particularly on the scoring front, whilst also showcasing her versatility with Italian side Reyer Venezia.

And, let’s not forget the important role Cheridene Green plays, too. Going from strength to strength every time she steps onto the court for GB, the second-year pro epitomises the character of the team, particularly on the defensive end.

Shequila Joseph makes a long-awaited Senior debut having made a strong start to the season in Spain’s second division and is another example of the depth that GB possess, particularly now in the front-court.

Karlie factor

Having Karlie Samuelson is a huge bonus for GB. The deadly sharpshooter missed November’s window, but has been a seamless fit into the system since her time with the squad. Samuelson has the ability to create her own shot and adds to GB’s outside threat, which will no doubt require attention from Belarus, especially after seeing Chantelle Handy torch Poland in a 19-point outing.

Samuelson brings an infectious energy into an already positive environment and will be brimming with confidence in the midst of a special season in Spain, with Avenida yet to taste defeat in the domestic league as well as making an unbeaten start in EuroLeague Women action.

The return of Samuelson also provides GB with an additional ball-handler, when needed, and can also allow GB’s forwards to go to work in the paint. Also, Samuelson’s average efficiency rating of 16.5 in the qualifiers is second only to Fagbenle’s 18.3.

GB take on Belarus in Riga on Thursday with tip-off at 11:30am UK time.

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