September 7 - Britain's basketball team pushed Slovenia all the way in their opening group game of the European Championships in Warsaw tonight, but they were unable to make the most of a dominant middle period and eventually lost 72-59.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu (pictured) topscored on his 26th birthday, in his first international game of the summer, with 18 points, while Rob Archibald added 12 and Andy Betts was one-point shy of double figures.

Meanwhile Slovenia were led by Erazem Lorbek with 19, Jaka Lakovic recorded 11 and Samo Udrih and Primoz Brezec both took eight.

With Slovenian fans dominating the crowd of 3,054 at the Torwar Arena, Britain found themselves 27-15 down after the first quarter but they rallied back to make it a two-point game by half time.

However, coach Chris Finch admitted his side ran out of gas in the latter stages of a game which he firmly believes was not reflected by the final score.

He said: "Slovenia played outstandingly well tonight, particularly when they had to.

"The game went pretty much as we expected it to go.

"We thought they would come in with a big first quarter and they did that.

"But I was pleased with the guys.

"All in all I was very proud of the way we played and we took a big step forward with where we had been before we came into this tournament.

"Pops got a nice game for us.

"He gave us energy but you could see in the second half, particularly in the fourth quarter, where he was a little out of rhythm from the rest of the team.

"He did a great job to help get us back in the game.

"We just kind of ran out of gas.

"They had up to a 15-point lead but it wasn't a 15-point game.

"If we can put 40 minutes together we can beat anyone.

"It doesn't get any easier but we knew the schedule and it hasn't changed.

"We have to stay committed to what we try to do and we did it for about 35 minutes and tomorrow we will have to do it for 40 to have a chance of winning.

"You can see that our team can compete in every level and at every moment."

By the end of the first quarter Slovenia had a 12-point lead which was a result of an eight-point run they had three minutes into the game and the fact they had made 90 per cent of their shots within the arc, compared to Britain's 60 per cent.

But the Britons returned rejuvenated in the second period, where a ten-point run pulled them back into the game against opponents they had beaten last month during a warm-up tournament in Seville.

It started with Archibald, who was Britain's first player to hit the three successfully and then Mensah-Bonsu doubled his points tally with a pair of buckets.

Slovenia tried to end the run with a timeout, but Britain continued stamping their authority on the game when Archibald converted Mensah-Bonsu's defensive rebound into a jump shot and free throw at the opposite end.

Jurica Golemac briefly interspersed the Britain's men's dominance with a basket but after Mensah-Bonsu made one of his freethrows and then Joel Freeland hit a lay-up and shot from the charity strip the score was locked at 29-29.

And Britain did not have to wait long to enjoy their first lead of the game.

Mike Lenzly made his first freethrow, then Betts picked up the rebound from his second and Freeland hit the jumpshot; with three minutes until half time the scoreboard read 34-33 to GB.

Freeland extended that lead from the freethrow line before Doman Bobek's basket once again drew the game level. Lakovic's pair from the strip ensured Slovenia took the narrowest of leads into the locker room.

Slovenia briefly opened up a six-point lead after Goran Jagodnik shot from outside the arc, before Mensah-Bonsu reduced the deficit with a pair from the charity strip.

It was Jagodnik who inflicted the damage again though with his second three of the game.

Britain responded through Flinder Boyd (pictured), whose first bucket of the game came from the three-point line and he was on target again with a jump shot, which took Britain to within two points of Slovenia.

Britain felt aggrieved to have a foul called on Jarrett Hart, which Erazem Lorbek capitalised on to give his side a 51-47 lead heading into the final quarter.

Lakovic opened the final quarter with his third three pointer of the game and then Golemac's three, on the other side of a Mensah-Bonsu freethrow, kept Slovenia marginally in control of the game. Brezemc and

Golemac added a couple of buckets, which put the team in green nine points ahead and buoyed both the crowd and Slovenia as Britain were unable to answer the ten-point run.

Udrih's jump shot outside the paint made it 67-52 until Boyd hit a three for Britain.

Britain did their best to respond but Slovenia continued to pull away and when Lorbec sunk a three his side had a 15-point lead which, with only two and a half minutes left to play was too big an ask to pull back.
Mensah-Bonsu took one final basket as GB lost 72-59.

Britain play world champions Spain in tomorrow night's game and Nate Reinking insists Britain will bounce back in time.

He said: "It was a tough game tonight and we fought to the fourth quarter.

"Slovenia had shots and good rallying.

"We turned it over and lost our rhythm and then it got away from us.

"They shot extremely well and I think that was the difference down the stretch."

Spain will also need a victory after being beaten 66-57 by Croatia in their opening match.

Reinking said: "This is why we play basketball, to play against the best.

"It will be easy for us to get up tomorrow morning and just get ready and keep improving as a team to go after the world champions."

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September 2009: Mensah-Bonsu more confident about Britain's chances than the bookmakers
September 2009: Pops puts the fizz back into British team for Poland
August 2009: Britain beat EuroBasket opponents to end run of defeats