An up-tempo, eventually ill-tempered contest saw Ipswich fall to defeat for the second time in three games as visitors Baltic Stars ground out a win on Saturday.
The fourth quarter of a combative game saw visiting head coach (and former Lithuanian international player) Andrius Mazutis ejected from the game for arguing calls made by the officials, who proceeded to give out a further three technical fouls as the final minutes of the game became increasingly fragmented.
It was an underwhelming end to what had been an enthralling contest between two sides playing fast, free offensive basketball, both with a combination of outside shooting and stylish dribble-drive scores.
Lee Hodges was effective as usual, but it wasn't enough for Ipswich (image: Pavel Kricka)
After Adam Robinson’s men had built a five-point advantage at the half-time buzzer, Ipswich saw that lead evaporate in a turgid third quarter as they conceded 35 points to the visitors.
But the Stars, after leading by as many as ten early in the final frame, then saw their lead whittled away by Ipswich behind aggressive offense from Jake Eynon and a triple from Will Ashby, which brought Ipswich within two at 80-78.
That was to be as close as Ipswich could get, however, as Nedas Cholevinskas and Daniel Kuntorov provided critical baskets for the visitors down the stretch to preserve their advantage.
Ipswich trailed by four points with five minutes to play and by six inside the final two minutes, but couldn’t find the key shots to keep themselves in the game and eventually resorted to fouling to stop the clock, allowing the visitors to pad their lead a little.
Long-range inaccuracy was a problem all night for the hosts, who shot less than 30% from three-point range for the first time this season.
Eynon finished with a game-high 36 points while Lee Hodges added an efficient 20 points and 11 rebounds, and Ashby racked up 16 points.
Seventeen-year-old Cholevinskas led the visitors with 26 points, but eight players scored at least seven points in a balanced Stars offense.
“Certainly a difficult day at the office,” said Coach Robinson after the game. “We struggled from range all day – they’re a long team and affected shots well, but we have to be smart enough to adjust to that.
“It’s always annoying to lose a game where you’ve outscored the opponent in three quarters out of four, but that third quarter was the worst we’ve played this year – we gave up far too many open looks and we’ll have to improve on that.”
Ipswich complete their three-game homestand this weekend as they welcome a familiar face in Aaron Moseley and the Richmond Knights, for a repeat of September’s pre-season friendly fixture.