China, one of the top basketball teams in the continent, hosted Asia's biggest basketball tournament, the 2015 FIBA Asia Basketball Championship (ABC) in Changsha from September 23 to October 3. Featuring four seven-footers, the hosts were the biggest team in the tournament, were backed by fervent home support and put in the longest duration of practice in preparation for this tournament. All of this resulted in the obvious conclusion: after coming up short in 2013, China showed their class over the competition this year by going undefeated through the course of the 2015 FIBA ABC to win the gold medal and automatically qualify for the basketball tournament at the Rio Olympics next year.
The tournament's finale featured two of the biggest hoop-loving nations in Asia: China and 2013 silver-medalists Philippines. While China had qualified for the final with an unblemished record, the Philippines had a rockier journey - including an opening night loss - but had up made up for their hiccups with strong performances at the biggest moments. The final on Saturday, October 3rd was a defensive, ugly game of basketball, but China rose to the challenge to take care of business when it most counted. China took an eight point lead by halftime, dominating against the Philippines who struggled shooting the ball from the field all night. China's size had enough advantage over Philippines' Andray Blatche (17 points) to nullify his efforts all night. Guo Ailun scored a game-high 19 for China while young talent Zhou Qi added 16 to go with 14 rebounds. China held on to their advantage and won 78-67.
Earlier on Saturday, 2013 champions Iran survived a topsy-turvy game against Japan to win 68-63 and secure third place at the tournament. Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami was fantastic all night, scoring 35 points to pace Iran's victory. Keijuro Matsui led Japan with 18. After Iran took a 12-point lead in the first quarter, Japan came storming back to make it a two-point game by halftime, and continued their momentum to lead 48-44 at the end of the third period. Iran saved their best for last, and Khahbahrami's hot shooting carried them to a win.
China's Yi Jianlian was named the MVP of the tournament.
Despite domestic turmoil, the 2015 FIBA ABC turned out to be a fruitful tournament for Team India. India sent a tweaked 12-member squad to Changsha, featuring new head coach Sat Prakash Yadav and minus the presence of many veteran players, but they did well enough to finish the tournament with a 3-6 record at 8th place.
The going got much tougher for India in the second game against Iran, who started the game on a 27-11 run, leaving India chasing the scoreboard for the next three quarters. India showed some heart to close the gap to nine at halftime, but they were outclassed by Iran after halftime, who went on to win 88-66. Mohammad Hassanzadeh Saberi A had 18 for the winning side, overcoming a fantastic 27 point-9 rebound performance by Amjyot Singh.
India started off on a good foot against Japan, leading 18-15 at the end of the first quarter, but eventually, the Japanese pace and shooting was too much for the Indians to handle. Japan reclaimed the lead at halftime and kept on the pressure in the second half all the way to a 83-65 win. Joji Takeuchi was unstoppable with 22 points and 19 rebounds in Japan's win. Makoto Hiejima added 19 in Japan's win. India were paced by captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi (24 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists) and, as usual, by Amjyot Singh (19 points, 10 rebounds).
India were caught napping early in their contest early next morning against Hong Kong, who came out stronger than expected and gave India a run for their money. Once again, it was the class of Amjyot (26 points, 12 rebounds) that proved to be the difference maker. India were down by five early and trailed 39-34 at halftime. But they finally gained the lead halfway in the fourth quarter and held on to their advantage en route to a 76-71 win. Yadwinder Singh had 18 points for India and Bhriguvanshi added 16. Chun Wai Wong (21), Siu Wing Chan (17), and Duncan Reid (16) were Hong Kong's leading scorers.
Fueled by two recent wins, India started off well against the Philippines in their last Second Round game, and led 17-16 at the end of the first quarter despite a tough-shooting night from their star Amjyot Singh. Eventually however, Philippines put their stamp on the game, playing efficient and unselfish basketball to blow India out easily, 99-65. Terrance Romeo led Philippines with 20, while India were paced by Bhriguvanshi (21) and Amrit Pal Singh (18 points, 13 rebounds).
no repeat of India's FIBA Asia Cup heroics from last year, China showed no mercy to India, dominating the game on both ends to win easily, 104-58. Yi Jianlian had 21 points and seven rebounds for China. For India, captain Bhriguvanshi impressed with a game-high 22 points while Yadwinder Singh added 16.
Out of semi-final contention, India were relegated to the 5-8th place classification games. They first played against Korea, and despite a semi-competitive start, India couldn't keep up with the frenetic offensive pace of their opponents for the rest of the game. Korea dominated India on the way to a 117-72 win, led by Tae Young Moon (22) and Sung Min Cho (10). Amjyot had 24 for India in the loss while Amrit Pal Singh added 18.
India's final game of the tournament was against Qatar, and they finished matter with a sour taste left in their mouths. India came out soft against Qatar, who opened up a 21 point halftime lead and left India with too much of a gap to cover after the break. Mohamed Hassan A
Mohamed scored 28 for Qatar and Mohammed Abdullah and Abduallah Matalkeh added 16 each. Amjyot Singh led India with 21 while Arvind Arumugam made the most of his minutes to score 16.
India should be most proud and excited by the performances of 23-year-old Amjyot Singh, the Chandigarh-born player who is currently playing with the Tokyo Excellence of Japan's D-League. Amjyot, India's leading scorer, finished as the fourth-best scorer of the entire championship (20.9 ppg) and the ninth-best rebounder (8.3 rpg). He also played the tournament's third-most minutes (37 mpg). Captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi enjoyed a good showing in Changsha, too, averaging 14 points and 4.8 assists per game, good for second-best in Changsha. Although Center Amrit Pal Singh wasn't as consistent as expected, he did a good job defensively and was strong on the boards. The performances of forward Yadwinder Singh and point guard Akilan Pari were also commendable.
India did especially well since they rolled out a team without the likes of Narendar Grewal, Pratham Singh, Rikin Pethani, Joginder Singh, Prasanna Venkatesh, and of course, new NBA-draftee Satnam Singh. The lack of so many talents completely deprived India of a deep bench, and thus, the big three of Amjyot, Amrit Pal, and Bhriguvanshi were forced to play big minutes and carry a heavy burden all tournament. Although they did well for stretches, fatigue eventually caught up with them and India missed a chance to spring a few more surprises. India could've finished a spot or two higher in the rankings if they were at full strength in Changsha.
- 1. China
- 2. Philippines
- 3. Iran
- 4. Japan
- 5. Lebanon
- Yi Jianlian (China) - MVP
- Guo Ailun (China)
- Zhou Qi (China)
- Jayson William (Philippines)
- Mohammadsamad Nik Khahbahrami (Iran)