Scotland go undefeated in group stage

Keiron Achara Scottish Basketball

Scottish Basketball striving

Scotland go undefeated in group stage

Undefeated group B table toppers Scotland took on Group A bottom placed team Nigeria today in the qualifying round at GoldCoast 2018. Nigeria have shown throughout the tournament that despite loss, they are a big physically imposing team that crash the boards hard, this was an issue for Scotland when they played Cameroon, Scotland head coach Rob Beveridge will have to game plan effectively, despite being the favourites on paper. Winners today get a semi-final against host nation Australia.

It only took 15 seconds for Gareth Murray – 48% from 3 and 16.5ppg – to hit a 3 and get the scoring underway. This morning both teams were invited to a pregame shoot around, only Scotland accepting, it proved evident early on as Scotland came out of the gate on fire as Bunyan joined in on the blazing perimeter shooting and Bevo’s men started 4/4 from behind the arc.  The game was a 3 point shoot out as Scotland put up 5 3’s and made all of them as ty led 15-14 half way through the 1st, Nigeria themselves going 4/5, the crowd jeered for the shootout to continue.

Scotland Coach Beveridge noticed Nigeria reacting to the outside game and changed things up as he put a big group on the floor to match the height of the Nigerians. Rocks’ duo Achara and Murray played excellently off each other, a noticeable moment as Murray beat the whole defence with a backdoor cut off the assist from Kieron, showing the class Team Scotland had. Scotland picked up the defensive intensity forcing turnovers in the final minutes of the first 1st period as they led 23-16.

Nigeria looked like a totally different team early in the 2nd quarter as they closed the gap to 2 off some effective offensive play and suffocating defence. Great Britain, Scotland and Rock’s Captain Kieron Achara showed the watching world why he is so highly regarded as he got his team back on track, putting his body on the line on defence and working down low on offence inspiring the young Scottish team to put a run together. The Captain continued his excellent played forcing a turnover and going down the court to be sent to the free throw line. This excellent play from Scotland in the first 5 minutes of the second quarter forced Nigerian coach Abdulraham Mohammed into a timeout as he had to muster his men to try and close the 10 point lead, 31-21.

Ali Fraser, who had his nose broken against India, played a stint of hero ball as he battled down low and then hit a turn around fade away for the and one pushing the Scotland lead to 13 with just over 3 minutes remaining. Mike Vigor hit a 3 to push the lead back to 14 and Scotland’s 3pt % up to 58 through 2 quarters. Abdul Yahaya started to ask questions of Scotland’s interior defence as he battled down low and got an and one and converted after Nigeria collected the offensive rebound. Scotland held a strong 12 point lead at halftime over Nigeria as they led 40-28.

Both teams came up empty in their first 2 possessions to open up the 3rd quarter as things began to slow down as the defences tightened up. Nigeria’s God’sgift Achiuwa came flying over the Scottish defence to throw down the alley-oop that got the crowd on their feet, Nigeria beginning to show their athleticism.

Despite this highlight play, both teams were plagued with empty offences as Scotland went 1/7 to open the 3rd and Nigeria didn’t fare much better, 3-8. Halfway through the 3rd period, Scotland called timeout as the offences had dried up and their 12 point lead was cut to 42-34, as Bevo called for his men to “attack the rim”. Things did not go to plan straight out of the timeout as Nigeria cut the deficit to 4. Kyle Jimenez played his coach’s plan as he attacked the basket for a score only for Nigeria to hit a 3 in the quick transition as the Scottish lead was now 3 with 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter. The game was tied behind some excellent effort from the Nigerian defence. Achiuwa played his namesake, as he was well and truly god’sgift for his team grabbing rebounds and assisting Ikechukwu Diogu for 2 consecutive tie baskets. Scotland collapsed in the 3rd quarter as the game was tied going into the final period at 46 a piece.

Calls began going Scotland’s way as they benefitted from a goaltend and Kyle Jimenez drew a charge, only for him to go down the other end and link up with fellow youngster Fraser Malcolm for an open layup. Nigeria took the lead as no one boxed out and Azouma Dike scored the putback off an air ball, Beveridge screamed as no blue shirt was anywhere near the ball. Nigeria called time as Scotland went on a 7-0 run to lead by 6, Mohammed crying for more discipline and effort on defence. Fraser in the facemask was complaining of vision issues but had no problem seeing the basket as he sunk a deep 3 to open up a 10 point lead.

Jonny Bunyan went down holding his side as Scotland held their breaths seeing one our home-grown superstars go down. Fellow ex-Falkirk Fury team mate Ali Fraser began to be Scotland’s only option on offence as he scored all of the points during this run. Scotland led by 6 as Beveridge called time to discuss the issues with the interior defence, working along with Captain Achara as he inspired his squad to pull out the win in the final 4 minutes as they led 61-55. With under 2 minutes remaining and down by 6, Nigeria committed their 15th turnover of the game but held on, on the defensive end.

In the final minute Scotland couldn’t get a basket only for Diogu to half the gap with a deep 3, forcing a Scottish timeout. Rob Beveridge gave his men very clear instructions, a gameplan that has been played on the world stage time and time again. Rock’s trio Achara, Fraser and Murray played gorgeous intricate basketball that left Gareth Murray an open dunk as Scotland led by 5. Nigeria advanced the ball out of the timeout and attacked the basket. Diogu split his freethrows and Captain Achara battled for the vital rebound. 12.7s left and Murray went to the line and split his freethrows giving Scotland a 5 point lead. That’s how it ended and Scotland sealed a semi-final game as they defeated Nigeria 66-61.