Tall Blacks beaten in World Cup build-up game
The road to the basketball World Cup has hit an early speed bump for Nenad Vucinic's Tall Blacks.
The New Zealand men's basketballers were tonight beaten 64-58 by South Korea in the first of two internationals in Seoul - the first steps on a 13-game buildup tour before the global event in Spain.
The under-sized Tall Blacks, already missing the unavailable Steven Adams and injured Alex Pledger, played without naturalised Americans Casey Frank (calf) and Nick Horvath (back) who both sat out the game to rest minor ailments.
The New Zealanders led 14-11 after the opening quarter, but fell behind 31-25 at the major break and trailed by a dozen (52-40) heading into the final term. They did briefly threaten a comeback in the final term, but could not sustain their run.
The Tall Blacks shot just 35 percent from the floor (24/69 FG) but were a woeful three-of-23 from behind the arc and just seven-of-14 from the free-throw line.
They were paced by 12 points from Breakers small forward Tom Abercrombie and 11 from University of Hawaii power forward Isaac Fotu, while skipper Mika Vukona chipped in with five rebounds and four steals.
Assistant coach Pero Cameron was afterwards very much looking on the bright side of a scratchy shooting performance.
"This was a tough game for us to score. It was a good defensive effort but we didn't score the points we needed in the second and third quarters and shooting [so badly] from the three-point line, no team is going to win off that percentage.
"But defensively we played well, and we had our chances in the fourth quarter."
Cameron said the coaching staff saw some positives with the bigger picture in mind.
"We are pleased with what we are getting from Isaac - he is playing very well and had 18 and a-half minutes tonight. Jarrod Kenny was able to get a game under his belt after his injury but we just couldn't get the ball in the hoop. A lot of our looks were open but the Koreans played a good style of full-court defence.
"This type of defensive pressure from Korea is good for us looking to the World Cup. They will be better than most other teams at this style. It's different compared to what we see in Australia and New Zealand."
Point guard Lindsay Tait said it was always going to be difficult to overcome such a poor shooting night.
"We shot the ball poorly and that came back to haunt us," he said. "We can't rely on outside shooting to win games at this level and we will have to make adjustments. We will need to get up to speed defensively - they play such a fast game with constant movement and you can't relax."
The Korean victory reversed a 2-1 series defeat in New Zealand and highlights what a major job Vucinic has in front of him getting his men up to speed for a tough World Cup group that includes the USA, Turkey, the Ukraine, Finland and the Dominican Republic.
The Tall Blacks play the Koreans again on Thursday before heading to China for twin international tournaments.