Team Taiwan left licking wounds after another loss
By Paul Huang / Taipei Times
CONTRIBUTING REPORTER WITH STAFF WRITER
Thursday, Jul 17, 2008, Page 20
The Jones Cup basketball competition’s preliminary phase finished yesterday, with Taiwan licking deep wounds after a poor display in the tournament, winning the first game against South Korea before losing every other fixture.
The USA team, represented by evangelical group Athletes in Action, completed their fine run with a win over an improved Taiwan side 102-86 at the Taipei County Sinjhuang Gymnasium last night to take first place in the standings ahead of today’s semi-finals.
Joining the Americans will be Jordan, who played a solid game to beat Qatar to confirm entry into the semis yesterday; a loss would have seen Egypt qualify in their place. As the only team to beat the Americans, and after a heartstopping come-from-behind win against cellar dwellers South Korea on Tuesday, Jordan will be confident of springing an upset.
Australia, a young team that finished strongly with three consecutive wins before losing unexpectedly to South Korea yesterday, came third ahead of Qatar and Egypt on the head-to-head rule.
Egypt overcame misfiring Kazakhstan yesterday to give them a shot at the semis, but the result of the Jordan-Qatar game that followed saw them banished to fifth.
Taiwan has a chance to salvage pride with two more games in the playoffs for 5th to 8th place.
On Tuesday, Team Taiwan proved no match for Kazakhstan as they fell by a 84-69 margin to drop their fifth in a row.
Despite an outstanding start that saw the hosts open up a surprising 12-4 lead, Kazakhstan regrouped and went on a 20-7 run over the remainder of the first quarter to take a 24-19 lead.
The obvious size disadvantage quickly took its toll on Taiwan as the visitors from central Asia increased their advantage to 38-29 at the half.
The deficit doubled in the second half with Kazakhstan continuing to dominate inside the paint, even with Taiwan opting to implement a full-court press defense in the hope of forcing some turnovers.
Learning a thing or two from Egypt, who had a hard time handling Taiwan’s pressure defense the night before, Kazakhstan were able to break it with relative ease and to up their lead to as many as 24 points early in the fourth quarter.
The continued press defense by Taiwan eventually wore down Kazakhstan and helped the home side reduce the deficit to a more respectable 13 points late in the game.
Game one hero Yang Jing-min came off the Taiwan bench to score a team-high 17 points with shooting guard Lee Hsueh-lin scoring 15.
As for Kazakhstan, three different players scored in double-digits, led by Rustam Yargaliyev’s game-high 23 points.
Taiwan take on Kazakhstan again at 3pm this afternoon in a consolation round battle between the sixth and seventh-placed finishers from the preliminary round.
Finding a way to minimize their size disadvantage against the Kazakhs by aggressively pursuing the ball is Taiwan’s only chance of pulling off an upset win.