When: Wednesday July 26th
Where: Centre National Sportif & Culturel d'Coque, Luxembourg
How to watch: TG4 at 7.15pm
Ireland come up against a familiar foe in Luxembourg in the 2nd game of the 2025 Eurobasket Pre-Qualifiers. Both teams suffered similar defeats to group favourites Croatia in their opening games, Ireland losing by 40 and Luxembourg by 36.
Looking back at Croatia
The less that’s said about the Croatia game the better really for Ireland. Croatia are clearly a class above the standard at this level, so it’s hard to be too critical of Ireland.
The biggest disappointment that the team will likely have for themselves, was how long it took them to find a response after the early shell shock. Ireland were down 38 points before they even made it into double digits.
Why did this happen? Aside from Croatia being excellent, Ireland couldn’t flow into any offense at all and struggled to generate good looks. Croatia’s length bothered them at the rim and when the first couple of outside shots didn’t go down, the whole situation snowballed where the team looked like they lost confidence. Some of our top contributors from the earlier rounds struggled, and simply put if Flood, Carroll, Blount and Igiehon combine for five points Ireland won’t win any games. They have the character and ability to bounce back with a good performance this week and Carroll having a first competitive game back in over a year will only help him.
The second half was more positive too and Ireland adjusted as the game went on, scoring 32 in the second half, including a 9-0 run. It was also good to see 20 points off the bench which is a signal of the increased depth Ireland has.
The Luxembourg Challenge
Luxembourg suffered largely the same fate as Ireland in Croatia losing 98-62. Ireland shot 15% from three against Croatia and Luxembourg out did them shooting just 13% (3/22). Even that 13% flattered them as they scored their first with 17 seconds to go in the third quarter and only added two more in the final two minutes of the fourth.
What they did much better than Ireland though was to play aggressively and attack the basket. They shot 23 free throws making 15, which compared to Ireland’s 4/8 was much better.
Defensively, Luxembourg played aggressively on the perimeter to restrict Croatia’s outside shooting but they were made pay by the Croats who shot 52% from 2 including an incredible 17 of their first 20 shots inside the three.
This won’t be an easy match up for Ireland though as Luxembourg have more experience and have a lot of players capable of attacking off the dribble. We’ll see Ireland spread out defensively a lot and personal defense is going to be paramount, Ireland have to force Luxembourg to shoot contested jumpers rather than live at the basket and free throw line.
The American born 4 man is a do it all stretch four who recently lead Basket Esch to the Luxembourg Championship. Having played collegiately at Vermont, he has a great pedigree and since his addition to the National team in 2020 he’s been performing brilliantly. In the last Eurobasket window he managed 33 points against Albania and in the Games of the Small States of Europe (Olympics style event for small populations) he scored 34 in the final win over Malta, including 28 in the first half. (Instagram highlights here: https://www.instagram.com/reel/CtDzO1zt3rS/?utm_source=ig_embed&ig_rid=f77e6093-a89d-42fe-88ac-6eaaaa4d568d)
Laurent is an undersized big at 6’6 who does a bit of everything. Playing in the Pro A in Germany, he will cause match up difficulties for Neal Quinn and Aidan Igiehon as he drags them away from the key.
Ireland have played friendlies with Luxembourg several times in recent years, most notably being a two-game series in the Mardyke Arena in 2018.
The series saw the arrival of Taiwo Badmus on the scene as he dunked his way to a game high 18 points in an Irish win on night one. Ireland’s most direct players Badmus and Lorcan Murphy both had success that night and it speaks to Luxembourg’s vulnerability in people attacking them off the dribble. Luxembourg bounced back with an overtime win in the second game 97-93 so the sides are clearly well balanced.
What to watch for
Both teams know that their chances to get a win in this group will likely only be in these match ups between the two. Luxembourg have been competing at this level for longer and have more experience but Ireland have a greater upside and should be confident of going and getting a result.
The Tempo Battle
Luxembourg will likely be happier for this to be up and down and a little bit wild. With two undersized bigs that can both attack off the dribble they will want to spread Ireland out and aggressively attack. They did a great job against Croatia of being aggressive and getting to the line, Ireland will have to be disciplined defensively. On the other end, Ireland will likely run selectively when they can get Badmus or Murphy in transition but expect a more methodical approach.
Luxembourg hemorrhaged points in the key early on Saturday and Ireland will need to follow that same game plan. Neal Quinn was the bright light last week for the Irish and Keenan and Co need their big man to be even more aggressive this week. Badmus has played well against Lux before so expect him to bounce back from a quiet game last week too.
Game of Zones
Both teams played zone last week and both got picked apart in different ways. Croatia were devastating from three against Ireland, while they picked off Luxembourg in the high post and along the baseline. Expect Ireland to play zone at times, especially as it will allow the boys in green to keep Igiehon and Quinn in the paint. Neither team covered themselves in glory shooting the three against better opposition so it will be interesting to see how they do against each other. Conor O’Sullivan’s introduction to the team, to replace the injured Paul Dick, gives Ireland another good shooter.
Going on the road is never easy internationally. Luxembourg have experience on their side and have also played more games this summer, having competed in the Games of the Small States. Their biggest advantage is that they have their clearly established identity and hierarchy with Rugg as their star. Ireland are still evolving and figuring out the most effective way to play at this level. That said, there is enough talent there for Ireland and last week’s blip doesn’t take away from the positive journey this group are on. Here’s hoping for a big Irish response and a narrow road win.