Gavin Love is happy with Plymouth Raiders despite defeat
Head coach Gavin Love was in a buoyant mood despite his Plymouth Raiders side's defeat at BBL Championship leaders Leicester Riders last Sunday.
The Devon side's confidence was sky-high after returning from a frustrating three-week break in their schedule to upset defending champions Newcastle Eagles 76-71 on Tyneside on Friday.
However, the win cost them their top scorer Michael Ojo, who sat out last Sunday's contest in the East Midlands with a twisted ankle. That setback reduced the Raiders to a core six-man rotation.
Even so, Plymouth led the Riders by as many as five, 50-45, before a 15-2 home run made it 66-56 by the middle of the fourth quarter and turned the tide for good.
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After Leicester's 78-66 win, Love, who was unhappy with a 24-14 foul count against his players, said: "In polite terms, some of the officiating on Sunday was questionable. But it is what it is. The most important thing is our defence was fantastic.
"We were in the game, no question and if some of the calls hadn't gone against us, it might have been a different story," he added.
"We missed Michael's offence, but our defence was great, so I'm not disheartened. I'm happy. It's all positive from here."
Plymouth are preparing for a busy week. Their next assignment is tomorrow's trip to Sheffield Sharks, who are on a charge and have won six of their last eight contests, including the BBL Trophy final, denying Leicester a potential clean sweep of all four BBL titles this season.
The Raiders will hope to have Ojo available in South Yorkshire tomorrow, but they will judge his injury day-to-day. He may have to wait until Friday's home game against Mersey Tigers.
"The players know we've turned a corner now," Love added. "We'll head into Wednesday's game with confidence. We just have to keep replicating this form. It's all about effort now."
Last Sunday's defeat dropped the Raiders into a tie for fourth in the league with Worcester Wolves. Their third game within a week will be Sunday's trip to Cheshire Phoenix.
A key player for Plymouth at present is centre Andreas Schreiber, who brought the Eagles down to earth last Friday with a dominant and team-high 26 points. However, he ran into foul trouble at Leicester two days later, summing up Love's feeling with the three officials.
"Andreas picked up fouls which were ridiculous," said Love. "On Friday, he was unbelievable. Newcastle couldn't handle him."
Schreiber is arguably the Raiders' best and most natural shot-blocker since Otis Polk in 2010-11, Love's first season in charge. Love declared: "Andreas allows our guards to gamble more on defence and put pressure on guys out on the perimeter. They know Andreas is behind them protecting the hoop."
Looking back at last Friday's feats on Tyneside, Love said: "We hadn't played for three weeks. We were ready.
"Everybody just dug in, and that's infectious. I have seven guys now who all want to play defence. Offence takes care of itself," he added.
"I'm so happy with how the guys performed this weekend, against two top teams. Our defence has improved vastly and our effort levels were spectacular. We were excellent."