Jul 03 2022

Swiss surge sees Ireland defeated 88-82 in FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-Qualifiers

Ireland are once again lamenting a clinical three-point shooting performance from their opponents, as they lost their closing FIBA EuroBasket 2025 Pre-Qualifier against Switzerland 88-82, dropping to 2-4 overall in their first taste of action at this level.   

Ireland led by nine at one stage in the second quarter, but a third period in which they were outgunned 30-18 proved to be the difference at the buzzer. Taiwo Badmus led the scoring charts for Ireland once more, adding 23 to his overall tally to bring it to 107 at the close of pre-qualifying. Jordan Blount battled through the pain barrier to contribute 18, while Lorcan Murphy added a very valuable 14 from the bench.

Buoyed by a sell-out crowd at the National Basketball Arena, Ireland started on the front foot and raced into a 10-6 lead on the back of three-point shots from Sean Flood and CJ Fulton. At the half-way point in the first quarter, Switzerland began to find their feet and reduced the deficit to a solitary point, 12-11. The remainder of the quarter was end to end. Both sides traded four-point runs. The highlight for Ireland coming in the shape of a monster put-back dunk by Aidan Harris Igiehon with 1:04 to go, bringing the entire arena to its feet. However, Switzerland responded with a strong six-point run to the buzzer, leaving the score 25-25.

The second quarter continued the back-and-forth nature of the contest. Ireland edged back in front through an early Taiwo Badmus three off the back of an opportunistic steal by a combative Will Hanley. As the clock ticked passed the halfway mark of the second quarter, Switzerland’s impressive guard Roberto Kovac started to find his range from the three-point arc. He would go on to record nine-points and three assists in the quarter. Ireland head coach Mark Keenan identified the lack of scoring from his bench against Austria three days ago as an issue, but in the aforementioned Lorcan Murphy, he found a willing contributor as a sixth man. Murphy was the hot hand for the Irish throughout the quarter, a missed free throw the only blemish on his resume as he registered 10-points in nine minutes play. It appeared as if Switzerland might take a narrow lead into the second half when an Arnaud Cotture dunk put them three ahead with 1:15 remaining. Jordan Blount had other ideas. The energetic C&S Neptune signing nailed a long range three of the assist of Lorcan Murphy to leave Ireland marginally ahead at the break, 47-45.

Switzerland’s shooters came out of the locker room in ruthless fashion and Ireland had to make changes defensively to try and slow them down. Midway through the period, that defensive intensity waned slightly, coinciding with a Swiss surge that saw them go on a 16-9 run in the closing 4:58 of the quarter. Kovac and TG4 MVP Jonathan Kazadi were to the fore once again, the latter hitting a pair of threes at crucial moments when Ireland appeared to wrestle back some momentum. Ireland were outscored 30-18 in this 10-minute stretch, giving them a 10-point deficit to overcome in the closing quarter, 75-65.

To their credit, Ireland brought the home support right back into it during the final quarter. Switzerland opened up with yet another three-pointer, this time through Selim Fofana to increase the lead to a game high 13-points. The re-introduction of the evergreen Badmus seemed to be the spark. His surging offensive layup with 7:28 remaining in the game reduced the lead to 11-points but the effect on morale was worth much more. Suddenly Ireland sniffed their chance. Badmus added a trio of free-throws, Murphy had an offensive layup and Badmus found himself at the centre of play once again to drag his team to within four after a three-point play with 2:43 remaining.

Four points was as close as the Irish would get however, as the Swiss team showed exactly why they harbour hopes of progressing to FIBA EuroBasket itself. For Ireland, this was an extreme learning curve for a team who will now look forward to the next EuroBasket qualifying repechage in 2023 with hope of further progression.

Speaking after the game, head coach Mark Keenan said:

“You have to give the guys credit. It looked like it was going to get away from us at the end we needed a spark from somewhere and all of a sudden, ‘bang’, Aidan came in and gave us a big spark, Jordan got going, Taiwo too. I think we’ll learn a lot from the last three windows. There’s a great crop of players coming through as well, so the future is bright.”

Scores (Ireland v Switzerland):

Q1:  25-25 (25-25)

Q2:  22-20 (47-45)

Q3:  18-30 (65-75)

Q4:  17-13 (82-88)

Top 5 scorers:

Ireland – Taiwo Badmus (23), Jordan Blount (18), Lorcan Murphy (14), Will Hanley (12), Aidan Harris Igiehon (7).

Switzerland – Roberto Kovac (22), Jonathan Kazadi (16), Killian Martin (13), Arnaud Cotture (12), Selim Fofana (9).

Ireland - Taiwo Badmus (23), Jordan Blount (18), CJ Fulton (5), Sean Flood (3), James Gormley (0), Will Hanley (12), Aidan Harris Igiehon (7), Cian Heaphy (0), Lorcan Murphy (14) Adrian O’Sullivan (0), Eoin Quigley (0), Conor Quinn (0)

Switzerland – Michel-Ofik Mzege (0), Boris Mbala (5), Yoan Granvorka (0), Petar Kozic (0), Jonathan Kazadi (16), Selim Fofana (9), Roberto Kovac (22), Robert Zinn (6), Killian Martin (13), Jonathan Dubas (0), Arnaud Cotture (12), Natan Jurkovicz (5).