WORCESTER Wolves interim coach Tony Garbelotto has called on his side to compete for the whole game after his charges ran reigning British Basketball League champions Leicester Riders close on Friday night.
Wolves went toe to toe with the Raiders for long spells in the clash at the University of Worcester Arena but were unable to do enough to deny their visitors an 85-80 win.
With seven minutes remaining Wolves were still in touch, trailing 63-65, before Leicester demonstrated their championship credentials with an overwhelming 16-2 burst that decided the contest.
Garbelotto pulled no punches in his assessment and said: “Leicester play with a physicality that no other team has. We’re just not ready to win in those types of games yet.
“I’m disappointed because we came into this from two good weeks of practice, competed in the first half, but then let ourselves down. I was proud when we got within two points and forced a time out, but then we let them get open shots.
“We’re not yet ready to play a complete game. You can’t just want to compete because the other team is winning – you have to compete from the first go,” he added.
Six minutes into the match Wolves were behind 7-15 before Jordan Whelan’s introduction to the action sparked a revival as he followed up a strong slash to the hoop with a three-pointer.
Lester Prosper rejected a Leicester attack and opened his account, reducing the deficit to 19-21.
The second quarter began with Wolves captain Adam Thoseby slotting in a triple to push his side ahead. Deshawn Freeman produced a sublime head fake which paved the way for a thumping slam dunk, keeping Wolves in half-time contention at 45-51.
After the break Miki Servera delighted home supporters by bouncing the ball off the back of an unaware Riders defender for a cheeky layup and a hard-nosed drive from Freeman kept the pot boiling.
It would take Leicester nearly four minutes to move the scoreboard in the final quarter as Wolves swarmed in defence, forcing turnovers and shot-clock violations.
Freeman had to leave the court after two offensive fouls, open chances were spurned and Riders stamped their authority on the evening to take the spoils.
“I was disappointed that we had to play Leicester today,” said Garbelotto.
“Against any team other than the top three we’re ready to win. I honestly believe in this group – we have to go into games believing we are going to win and then act like that.”
Wolves return to the University of Worcester Arena on Friday (tip off 7.30pm) when they entertain Sheffield Sharks.