Israel may have wiped out an overmatched Romania 112-61 in what was not much of a contest but there was certainly a number of positives to take away from the game despite Deni Avdija’s absence as the World Cup qualifiers and Eurobasket creep ever so much closer.
First off, the Blue & White were able to move the ball around very well and continuously find the open man whether that player was under the basket or on the perimeter. The players who received the ball in the paint almost immediately looked for a quick second pass to the outside and that worked to perfection with Israel dishing out 36 assists with 18 of them coming from the forward position players.
This is certainly going to one of the strategies which head coach Guy Goodes will employ against some of the teams with significant height be it Finland, Serbia, Poland and the Czech Republic to name a few.
“I told the players to forget about the result,” Goodes said. “Give your best on defense, move and control the ball on offense at a quick game pace. I think that the third quarter we did that better and from there we were on our way.”
One of the key players in employing the team’s strategy is Jake Cohen who can play both the forward and center position. The Israeli big man reflected on the team’s play and the issues surrounding height and size as they continue to work towards reaching their best for the official games beginning next week.
“It’s always nice to play someone new and work on our stuff, even though the game was a big point difference I think there are still things that we can work on and do for next week and moving forward. Playing against big teams both in prestige and in size and we made it work. We’ve won games over the past years against those teams playing our style of basketball. It’s high level, so we need to find where we have an advantage and take advantage of that. What teams might have on us in height or size or whatever you know, we can find an advantage and play for ourselves.”
So far, over the course of the four exhibition games, Cohen has been able to shine and play possibly his best basketball over the past 12 months. There’s no question that the Davidson product will be a crucial contributor for Israel in the upcoming official games after having a rough season with Maccabi Tel Aviv where he definitely struggled to play up his own expectations.
Since the National Team since camp opened, Cohen has been a massively important anchor for the squad with his leadership and veteran know how which is something that both Goodes and Avdija spoke about after last week’s game against Auburn.
The ever present Cohen is very happy to be a part of the team that went through a rejuvenation process following the 2017 Eurobasket. The last number of years has seen the program grow with Cohen being one of the most significant contributors. Oded Katash began bringing in new faces and imbued a sense of trust in the players, one of which was Cohen who may have been skeptical at the start but who quickly took to the mission and goals of the National Team which is now being continued by Goodes.
“I’m really excited, with a great group of guys. I really enjoy playing with them and playing for the National Team is one of the best things about being a professional player especially being able to play in a high level tournament like the EuroBasket. I hope we can win some games and do something good, which would make it even more special.”
Cohen’s basketball IQ is off the charts as is his desire, drive, hustle and all around know how. He is one of the elder statesman on the team at the tender age of 31 and has seen plenty of hoops over the course of a professional career that has spanned a number of teams and countries including, Spain, Greece and of course Israel.
With 10 points against Romania going 5/5 from the floor with terrific cuts to the basket and a team high 5.25 VPS (Value Points System), 17 points versus Auburn and 9 points in the one game he played against Georgia. Over the three exhibition matchups he is averaging 12 points per contest which for sure makes Goodes extremely happy as they head into crunch time and the big games to come.
While Romania’s abilities are limited and does bring into question what Israel can really gain from a 51-point victory, Cohen relished the opportunity from a team level as to what the blue-and-white can get out of the pair of clashes.
“I think it’s important to look at the things that we just do well. You know, it’s easy to look at the great plays and the flashy highlights and stuff like that, but there are still things we can improve. We’re going to play a couple of really good teams in the next couple weeks. Mistakes that you make will be taken advantage of so, we have to try to fix up that before we get to that moment.”
As they say, practice makes perfect.