Hosts Taiwan had no trouble dominating the home court at the Taipei Gymnasium between July 31-August 4, as they posted a perfect 4-0 record to top the five-team table and win the William Jones Cup. With the FIBA Asia Championship for Women only a few weeks away, this tournament served as a good warm-up for the participating teams, including the Indian Women's contingent who played their first competitive international games under new head coach Pete Gaudet.
India may have returned with just one win out of four, but their performance in that single win against the Korea Samsung side, coupled with a few stretches of good basketball against tough opponents in the other games, may have left Coach Gaudet with signs of optimism for the team's future.
India played their first game of the tournament against Taiwan World University Games (WUG) side. The game immediately became a showcase of the skills of India's Center Geethu Anna Jose, who continued to cement her position as one of the best players in all of Asia. While India started the game confidently, and trailed by just 1 in the first period, Taiwan WUG put the clamps down defensively on India, in the second, outscoring them 18-6 in the second quarter to hold on to a 35-22 half-time lead. The game became looser in the second half as both sides found the basket easily.
Trailing by 17 at the end of the third period, India made a brave comeback in the fourth quarter, in which Jose scored 13 points, outscoring Taiwan WUG all by herself. It still wouldn’t be enough as Taiwan WUG survived to win 71-64 in the end.
Taiwan WUG were led by the duo of Xu Qianhui (17) and Zhen Huang (16). Geethu Anna Jose had a big game for India in a losing effort, scoring 34 points and grabbing 18 rebounds.
In their second game, India faced hosts Taiwan, who had little problem brushing past India for a 45 point victory behind strong performances by Liu Jun (19 points) and Jiang Fengjun (16). Taiwan started strong, holding on to an eight-point advantage at the end of the first quarter, after which the game continued to slip away from India's hands. India trailed by 19 at the end of the half, and a confident Taiwan turned on their defensive screws to limit India to just 19 points in the second half.
For India, Jose was once again the best player, leading her side with 17 points.
After losing their first two games, India faced Korea Samsung on Tuesday. A weak first quarter, in which India only managed to score 9 points, didn't help in their bid to overturn their losing streak, and India found themselves trailing 32-24 at halftime.
But it was an inspired third quarter, in which India outscored their opponents 24-9, that proved to be the difference in the game. Hot shooting Prashanti Singh (16 points) and Anitha (24) led the way for India, overturning the score to India's advantage. Korea's fourth quarter comeback ended short, and India survived for a four-point victory.
The final game was against Japan: After India scored the first few baskets of the game, Japan took over the game completely, scoring quickly and with ease, and headed to a 31-16 first quarter lead, which was stretched to 57-26 by the end of the first half. Japan played good unselfish basketball, as five of their players scored in double digits.
India's performance, like the previous game, improved in the second half of the game, and in the fourth quarter, India shot well from the three-point line to stay neck-to-neck with Japan. But the damage had already been done, and Japan headed towards a 98-62 win.
Geethu Anna Jose led India with 16 points.
Of course, there is still a lot of work to be done by Gaudet's side: the side will immediately return to camp in Delhi, as they now have only a little more than two weeks before the big challenge: the 24th FIBA Asia Championship for Women at Omura & Nagasaki in Japan from August 21-28th. In addition to the 12 players who went for the William Jones Cup, stand-in players Asha Hegde and Sonika will also join them for the camp.
India have been placed in a group with China, Korea, Japan, Chinese Taipei, and Lebanon in 'Level 1' of the FIBA Women's ABC.