Israel defeated Estonia 88-68 to record their first FIBA World Cup victory thanks to a dominant second half led by Hapoel Jerusalem’s Rich Howell and his 19 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. Maccabi Tel Aviv’s Jake Cohen dropped 10 points and 7 boards while Shawn Dawson from Bnei Herzliya scored 13 points. Kitsing and Veideman led the visitors with 14 points a piece.
1) It took about 20 minutes of play for Israel to warm up as they led 38-35 going into halftime, but the second half was a whole different story as the Blue & White outscored Estonia 50-33. Once everyone got on the same page things just rolled for Israel. Coach Oded Katash explained after the game, “The first half was like an exhibition game for the players to get used to playing with each other. We worked on basics during the week and looked at how the players could perform as simple as possible.”
2) Estonia set the tone for their game right from the get go when they missed a 3-pointer, which was the first of 38(!) shots taken from beyond the arc. Thankfully for Israel the visitors only hit 8 of them good for 23%. On the other hand, the Blue & White had a tremendous game from all over the floor, shooting 60%, 24/41 from 2, 9/14 from 3 and 13/15 from the free throw line. How will they shoot on Monday against Greece in Crete? Well, that may be another story.
3) Katash didn’t want to point out one player from his squad but he couldn’t get away without saying anything about Rich Howell who was tremendous in 25 minutes of play. The big man was unstoppable going 8/11 and finishing the contest off with 19 points, leading all scorers. “I’m proud of everyone and there was not one player I can put a finger on, but Rich Howell was dominant.” And dominant he will have to be against Greece on Monday. His finger got a bit knocked up at the end if the game but hopefully he will be able to put in a similar performance in Greece as he did in Tel Aviv. If Israel wants to come away with a win against a team that will feature 4 Euroleague players, including Nick Calathes, Katash will need all hands on deck. The one caveat that may play in Israel’s favor is that 3 of the Euroleague players will only be joining Greece after their first game and will not have played together other than perhaps the Sunday practice. If I’m Katash I’ve got to take advantage of this chance.
The Sports Rabbi will be in Heraklion, Crete for Israel’s first away game in FIBA World Cup Qualifying, so make sure to keep up to date with all of the action from Greece as the Blue & White will look to go 2-0!