Georgia make their mark on World Cup bow


It took a while for Georgia to get going on their FIBA World Cup debut, but thanks to an NBA tandem, they wowed the crowd in Okinawa at Cape Verde’s expense.

The 80-65 win announced the Georgians onto the world stage, but they struggled in the opening stages against their fellow debutants as the Islanders began confidently, spearheaded by Real Madrid star Edy Tavares.

However the introduction of Goga Bitadze and Sandro Mamukelashvili, mid way through the first quarter ignited Georgia and once a Thaddus McFadden three-pointer highlighted a 9-0 spurt to establish a 20-11 lead after the first, the momentum – and ultimately the contest – was theirs.

Indiana Pacers big man Bitadze ended up with 15 points and 11 rebounds as the 24-year-old relished his first taste of World Cup basketball with San Antonio Spur Mamukelashvili adding 10 points, eight boards and five assists.

The latter at times a little too excited, proved by his six turnovers, but regardless a major factor in the win.

Tornike Shengelia was the high man for the victors with 16 points.

A landmark first win for veteran coach Ilias Zouros, who witnessed sublime team basketball from his side, crisp execution, offensively, shooting 46 per cent from the field along with going 22/24 from the foul line, which makes a big difference at this level.

“I will say that this is a historical moment for Georgian basketball,” Zouros said.

“It’s our first win in the world championship, first appearance. We are very happy, we are very satisfied.”

The tournament though doesn’t stop at just one game, Zouros has already put this game in the rear view mirror and is focusing on the tough test that awaits next.

“We have to move on,” said Zouros. “This is only the first game of the tournament. We have in front of us Slovenia after today, we have to be focused. We need to start the work for that game.”

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