Taiwan falls to China in FIBA Asian basketball qualifiers finale
Taipei, June 21 (CNA) The men's national basketball team of Taiwan fell to Asian powerhouse China by 18 points on Sunday in their second matchup in the Philippines and Taiwan's third and final game in the third window for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
After falling to China by 49 points Thursday and to Japan by 37 points Friday, Taiwan lost to China 91-73 at Angeles City Foundation Gym in Pampangas, the Philippines in the finale of the third qualifying round, which is being held in a bubble to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
With the loss, Taiwan finished third in its four-team qualifying group, which means it did not receive an automatic spot at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup, being held in Jakarta in mid-August. However, Taiwan still has a chance to qualify by competing in a qualifying tournament with the five other third-placed teams (though as hosts Indonesia qualify automatically), with the top three (other than Indonesia) also heading to the Asia Cup.
China took the top slot with an unblemished record of four wins and no losses, followed by Asian heavyweight Japan with two wins and two defeats. Meanwhile, Malaysia finished last in the group, having sat out this round in the Philippines.
Despite the defeat, the game on Sunday showed that Taiwan's relatively young team, made up mostly of semi-pro Super Basketball League and collegiate players, does have the potential to be competitive with Asia's better teams.
Using its height advantage, China led 28-16 at the end of the first quarter. However, Taiwan rallied in the second quarter, attacking with speed to pull off a 23-21 run over their taller opponents.
Finding their rhythm and stroke, including making it rain 4-8 from beyond the arc, the Taiwan team fought hard to narrow the deficit and trailed China 49-39 at the end of the first half.
China's aggressiveness widened the lead to 76-53 in the third quarter as they attacked between the blocks. The Taiwan team hit back with its own 20-15 run over the Chinese side in the fourth quarter by hitting the basket from the high and low post.
However, Taiwan failed to close the gap any further as China took the victory at the final buzzer.
China's 206cm forward Zhou Peng, who plays for the Guangdong Southern Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association, led all scorers with 21 points, while his teammate, 211cm center Shen Zijie, posted the only double-double of the game with 18 points and 14 rebounds.
Taiwan's 203cm center Jonah Morrison, the only national team player over 200cm in height, said after the defeat that the team played much better than in their first game against China.
"When we first arrived in the Philippines, we didn't play that well because we were still trying to get used to each other, playing our first game as a team. But now after two, three games we're getting more used to each other (and) our chemistry is building up, so I think we're going to play better in the future," Morrison said.
When asked about the lack of bigs in the Taiwan team and the possibility of naturalizing foreign players, Taiwan's assistant coach Cheng Chih-lung (鄭志龍) cited the complications of the country's laws.
"Taiwan's basketball association has a number of ideas, but because of Taiwan's laws, the procedure is a bit complicated. Hence, we are still working on the matter," Cheng said.
The loss gave Taiwan a 1-4 record in Group B, which also includes Malaysia, Japan, and China.
A total of 24 teams competed in six groups with the top two in each group automatically qualifying for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup. With Indonesia automatically qualifying as hosts, the six third-place teams will play in a last qualifying tournament from Aug. 12-14 in Jakarta, with the top three (aside for Indonesia, as they have already qualified) going on to punch their tickets for the Asia Cup.
The teams that have qualified so far are Bahrain, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Lebanon, the Philippines, Syria, Australia, New Zealand, China, Japan, and Indonesia.
FIBA Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers live scores carousel courtesy of fiba.basketball
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