Manila: Iran continued to flaunt awesome might, bringing down Jordan without mercy and making the Final Four of the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship ahead of everyone else.
The Iranians were all business all of Friday night and mangled the Jordanians black-and-blue, 94-50, before Chinese-Taipei reversed the form charts and upset defending champion China, 96-78. Both teams arranged a semifinal clash on Saturday, and the Taiwanese’s victory marked the second straight edition in this tournament that the defending champions didn’t get past the Final Eight.
Iran was that team that bowed out in 2011 in Wuhan, China, incidentally, against a much-stronger Jordanian team that still had the naturalized Rasheim Wright and Jordanian-American Sam Douglas. But even if the two were here last night, the way the Iranians played, it wouldn’t have made any difference. Hamed Hadadi led four others in twin digits for Iran with 20 points that went with eight rebounds, playing practically the whole of the first half as the Iranians, the 2007 and 2009 champions, raced to a 20-point lead as early as the end of the opening frame.
The complexion of the match did not change a bit from there. It actually got a lot worse for the Jordanians. Iran sat on a 53-28 bubble at halftime and held Jordan to a paltry eight points in the third period to take a 74-36 into the fourth quarter as one Jordanian player appealed to the media to air a solution to their problem back home “There’s a big difference now between basketball in Jordan and in Iran,” starting Jordanian guard Wesam Alsous said. “I hope they (basketball officials) get this message back home so they can fix this problem.”
So unrelenting were the Iranians that they allowed just one player – the naturalized Jimmy Baxter – to score in twin digits for Jordan, which took one of its worst losses in its Fiba-Asia participation.
Hamed Afagh backed up Hadadi with 18 points and Oshin Sahakian chipped in with 14, including back-to-back three-point plays in the third quarter that completely broke the Jordanians’ collective backs. While the Iranian victory was totally expected, China’s tumble certainly wasn’t. Playing as if not responding to their coach, the Chinese went down in flames against a team that has never beaten them in the past.
Yi Jianlian was the only bright spot offensively for the Chinese, but there were certain times in the match where it was evident that he didn’t want to play defense.
And the result was a catastrophe that left even the Chinese media here dumbfounded. Quincy Davis III, the first naturalized player in Chinese-Taipei’s basketball history, paced his squad with 23 points that went with 10 rebounds, actually outplaying the much-ballyhooed Yi, who wound up with 22 and 10. It was a bitter loss to swallow for the Chinese, who kept the hurting Yi in the freezer for majority of the tournament to keep him healthy for the KO stages.
China led by as many as 17 points in the first half, playing splendidly on offense only to sputter in a crucial gap between the two halves. And by the time they needed to get it back together again, the Chinese were buried so deep there wasn’t any coming out of it.
Chinese-Taipei used a 13-0 run at the end of the second frame and the start of the third period to pull even at 50-all. And that was all the Taiwanese needed as Tien Lei drained a triple for 53-52 for the lead they never lost. Lin Chih-chieh came back from an injury and scattered 17 points and Tien finished with 13 for the Taiwanese.
Incidentally, Iran and Chinese-Taipei also clashed in the Jones Cup last month, with the Iranians winning convincingly. “It’s going to be an interesting match because Chinese-Taipei has great shooters,” said Mehmed Becirovic, the Iranian head coach.