03/09/2014
News

Mexicans searching for mental toughness

Jorge Gutierrez (MEX). Mexico vs Australia, 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Gran Canaria (Spain), Day 5, Group phase

GRAN CANARIA (FIBA Basketball World Cup) - Entering the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, Mexico's last win in FIBA's flagship event dated back more than 40 years ago. It was on 12 July 1974 when they beat Australia 85-84 in a thriller.

Following on from Tuesday's drought-breaking victory over Angola, the Mexicans were looking to repeat the 40-year-old dose on the Boomers, and for a while it was squarely on the cards.

But just as they did against Lithuania and Slovenia to open the tournament, the FIBA Americas champs couldn't match their powerful opponent when the stakes were raised in the third quarter.

"They're a tough team, they finished off strong and we just couldn’t just match their intensity," said guard Jorge Gutierrez.

Mexico trailed by just two points after an impressive Orlando Mendez drive early in the third quarter, but a mere six minutes later the Aussies had streaked 16 clear behind what is becoming their trademark speed.

Australia ultimately closed out a 70-62 win behind 21 points from Aron Baynes, the win securing a place in the Round of 16 for the Oceania champions.

Unlike their clashes against the two European nations, however, Mexico managed to reverse their second-half fortunes and close to within six points late in the game.

Their guard play was also strong, coughing up just 12 turnovers after the Boomers had forced 22 out of Lithuania, but none of that impressed Gutierrez.

"That part was good for us, but it's still the same problem, towards the end of the game we can't match the intensity," he said.

It doesn't really matter if you don't turn the ball over if you can't finish the games. - Gutierrez

The loss means Mexico cannot pass Lithuania, Slovenia or Australia in Group D, and must now beat Korea on Thursday to secure a trip to Barcelona and a likely date with the USA.

When asked if his team's second-half fade-outs were simply a case of an inexperienced team lacking confidence on the sport's biggest stage, Gutierrez wasn’t interested in offering excuses.

"You can talk about confidence but we have to be mentally tough, we can't just play a great game for a half," he said.

And the plan for the crunch game against the Koreans?

"We have to win, that's what it is."

FIBA

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