Israel finishes last in group stage of EuroBasket after thrashing by Ukraine
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Israel finishes last in group stage of EuroBasket after thrashing by Ukraine

Despite local basketball fans’ high hopes going into tournament, blue and whites unable to turn home court advantage into wins

Illustrative: Italy's power forward Nicolo Melli (R) dribbles past Israel's small forward Omri Casspi (L) during the FIBA EuroBasket match between Italy and Israel at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on August 31, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)
Illustrative: Italy's power forward Nicolo Melli (R) dribbles past Israel's small forward Omri Casspi (L) during the FIBA EuroBasket match between Italy and Israel at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv on August 31, 2017. (AFP Photo/Jack Guez)

Israel finished the International Basketball Federation European championship with a whimper on Wednesday after being soundly defeated by Ukraine in front of a home court crowd in Tel Aviv.

As a result of the 88-64 loss, Israel finished last place in its FIBA EuroBasket group with a 1-4 record, with its sole win coming against Germany.

Despite jumping out to a 16-11 lead, the Israeli squad was overwhelmed by Ukraine, which subsequently went on a 30-2 run and put the game out of reach for the blues and whites.

Israel suffered from low production from its top players, with the NBA’s Omri Casspi scoring only 3 points, while fellow Israeli stars Lior Eliyahu and Gal Mekel scored only 12 and 3 points, respectively.

Richard Howell, one of Israel’s starting five, did not play in the game due to an injury.

For Ukraine, whose roster does not feature a single NBA player, center Viacheslav Kravtsov finished first in scoring with 17 points.

A victory over Ukraine would not have bumped Israel into the next stage of the tournament, with Georgia having a better record following their nail-biting win over Israel in the last seconds of overtime on Tuesday.

After losing to Italy and Lithuania, Israel defeated Germany, but was unable to corral the momentum of the win into a victory against Georgia and in turn Ukraine.

Israeli basketball fans had been eagerly anticipating for 18 months since it was announced that the country would, for the first time in its history, co-host the tournament.

Six squads, including Israel, faced off in a knockout group phase at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena that began on August 31. Other group action was also taking place in Finland, Romania and Turkey.

The final two knockout rounds, now without Israel, are set to take place in Istanbul.

Last year’s European basketball championship was the first to be hosted by multiple countries and FIBA says it opted to follow the same path for the 2017 edition due to its “unprecedented success.”

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