*In a repeat of 2014, the senior Indian men’s team beats heavyweights China 70-64, to inch closer to a quarterfinals spot with a game against Kazakhstan remaining*

New Delhi/Bengaluru, 13th September 2016: Second round action of the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 continued today at the Twelve Thousand People Sport Hall, Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran, Iran. Led by captain centre Amritpal Singh, the Indian men’s team stunned Group E leaders China 70-64 earlier today, to inch closer to a quarterfinals spot.

Coming into this match, India had lost 2 straight games, against Chinese Taipei in round 1, and its initial second round match against Jordan yesterday. China though had an unblemished 3-0 record and looked to keep it that way as it led 27-18 halfway through the second quarter.

Fighting Back

But suddenly, India came alive, with the defensive brilliance of its frontcourt of Amjyot Singh and Amritpal Singh sparking a 13-2 run to close out the period with a slender 31-29 lead.

In the second half, captain centre Amritpal Singh came into his own, bulldozing his way into the paint, to score 8 points within the first 3:30 mins. It was China’s turn now to feel the heat, as the pressure mounted on the relatively younger side (average age 22 yrs as against India’s 24 yrs). The error prone China had 22 turnovers and virtually gave up the interior to India. Pounding on the boards, India had 19 offensive rebounds which contributed to 18 second chance points.

Captain Amritpal Singh led from the front in beating China. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

Captain Amritpal Singh led from the front in beating China. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

India now led 51-45 to end the third quarter, and a repeat of its path breaking upset from 2014 seemed well on the cards. However, the Young Cagers were faced with a perplexing dilemma of their own. Two of its Big Three of Amjyot and Amritpal were on four fouls each, but Head Coach Sat Prakash Yadav chose to keep them on the floor. China showed better aggression to begin Q4, as India’s once 11 point lead late in the third quarter was cut down to just 4, 53-49.

India’s bench steps up

With Amjyot and Amritpal having to go passive in a bid to avoid getting fouled out, veteran guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi managed the clock perfectly, to give India quality possessions on offense. But the dagger was provided by none other than Amritpal who stripped his rival Chinese centre off the ball, and threw down a monstrous dunk to get India back up by 6 pts, 55-49 with 7:50 left in the game.

Guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi showed excellent composure to keep China at bay. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

Guard Vishesh Bhriguvanshi showed excellent composure to keep China at bay. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

Amjyot had already fouled out by then and Amritpal soon followed. Suddenly, with 5 minutes left India was faced with the daunting prospect of protecting a 9 point lead (60-51) with its starting frontcourt consigned to the bench. Admirably, the backup forwards of Rikin Pethani and Ravi Bhardwaj showed excellent composure on both ends of the floor to ensure India’s memorable 70-64 victory.

Aggression to the fore

According to Bhriguvanshi and Head Coach Sat Prakash Yadav, defence was heavily emphasized. “Overall it was a team effort and they played as well as they did at the practice sessions at NITTE Campus. We worked on defence and this gave my boys more confidence on offense. Our strategy was to pressure the ball man and not let the first receiver receive the pass easily,” said Yadav.

Bhriguvanshi also echoed that sentiment, “We just thought, let’s play good defence. It was a great game by the team and I can really say that we played a perfect team game.”

“As we planned right from the beginning, we played great half court pressure defence. Our team did not allow China to receive the ball in the shooting range, so they were forced to attempt low percentage shots from farther out,” said assistant coach CV Sunny.

An ecstatic Akilan Pari hugs captain centre Amritpal Singh after the win over China. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

An ecstatic Akilan Pari hugs captain centre Amritpal Singh after the win over China. Image credit- FIBA Asia.

The numbers back up their statements, as India had more steals (11-6), blocks (4-1) and rebounds (45-37). Much of this can be credited to centre Amritpal Singh, who averaged his third straight double double of the tournament.

No doubt this is a massive upset, with China ranked 14th in the world compared to India’s 53. But it is to be remembered that like Philippines, another much higher ranked team upset by India earlier in this tournament, China too has sent a younger unit. Only one Chinese player — centre Yuchen Zou — has been retained from its 2016 Olympic squad. Notably, China’s two NBA level starting forwards Yi Jianlian (Los Angeles Lakers) and Zhou Qi (Houston Rockets) are absent from the side.

That said, it could equally be argued that India too has been missing the likes of centre Satnam Singh and power forward Palpreet Singh. The former is currently with NBA D League side Texas Legends, while the latter is at present trying out for the D League. Additionally, it must be emphasized that the average age of the Indian squad itself is just 24, meaning that the core will remain largely intact for the next few years.

Despite the result, China stays on top of Group E. India on the other hand has temporarily climbed up to the 3rd spot. India takes on bottom placed Kazakhstan tomorrow from 5pm onwards in its final second round game. A win will guarantee a spot in the quarterfinals, while a loss could still see it through provided Jordan beats Philippines in their final head to head tomorrow morning.

Results on 13/9/2016

India (Amritpal Singh 23 pts 14 reb 3 blk 3 stl, Amjyot Singh 16 pts 8 reb, Vishesh Bhriguvanshi 15 pts 6 ast 3 stl) bt China (Jinqiu Hu 19 pts, Tianju He 12 pts) 70-64 [14-17, 17-12, 20-16, 19-19]

About the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016

The FIBA Asia Challenge was previously known as the FIBA Asia Cup. It is the first step in the qualification process for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.

The top 5 teams will earn for their respective sub-zones an extra berth at the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup, which will be the first inter-continental tournament featuring teams from both Asia and Oceania (i.e. Australia & New Zealand). The top teams from the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup in turn qualify for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

The 2016 FIBA Asia Challenge will be held at the Twelve Thousand People Sport Hall, located in the north & south of the main street of the Azadi Sport Complex.  Host Iran is the defending champion.

Format

The initial round of the tournament will be played in a round robin format. The 12 participating teams have been divided into 4 groups of 3 teams each, and each team will play the 2 teams that are in the same group as them.

Preliminary Round Grouping

Group A: China, Jordan, Kazakhstan

Group B: Philippines, India, Chinese Taipei

Group C: Iran, Qatar, Iraq

Group D: Japan, Korea, Thailand

All 12 preliminary round teams will advance to the second round, where they will be divided into 2 teams of 6 each. Each team will then play the 3 new teams in its group. The top 4 teams from each of the second round groups will then move on quarter-finals, followed by the semifinals and finals.

India’s Tournament Schedule (all times IST)
Round 2

vs Kazakhstan, 14th September 2016- 5 pm onwards

For more information please visit: www.fiba.com/asia/challenge/2016

India’s Squad

The final 12 members of the squad who will represent India at the FIBA Asia Challenge were selected at the end of a nearly one-month long training camp held at NMAM Institute of Technology (NITTE) in Karkala, Udupi district of coastal Karnataka.

While the Indian side remains largely unchanged from last month’s 38th William Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament, there are a couple of key changes. Veteran swingman and defensive stopper Yadwinder Singh returns to the team, and is expected to provide much needed versatility on both ends of the floor in terms of matchups. Also, teenager Hariram Ragupathy, one of the stars from India’s historic 8th place finish at the 2016 FIBA Asia U18 Championship, makes his debut into the senior team.

A small ceremony was held at the NITTE campus to bid farewell to the Indian squad, which was attended by Mr Chander Mukhi Sharma, Secretary General of BFI.

“On behalf of BFI I convey my sincere thanks to NITTE University management, who for the last two years have been continuously providing us all the training facilities for the Indian team. This is my first visit here, but this is one of the best campus facilities I have seen,” said Mr Sharma.

Addressing the departing contingent, he said, “Ultimately, it is the outcome of your efforts which will benefit basketball in India. You are the players who are icons for all other players in the country. So I wish you all the success and that you put up a performance that is even better than in all the previous championships that you have attended.”

Senior Men’s Squad for the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016

Jersey
No
Family Name(s)

/Last Name

First Name(s)

/Given Name

Place of Birth

(City and State)

Date of Birth
(dd/mm/yyyy)
Height
(cm)
(ft & inches)
Weight

(Kg)

Position
4 Bhullar Arshpreet Singh Jalandhar Punjab 02/10/1996 190 (6’ 3’’) 86 G/F
9 Bhriguvanshi Vishesh Varanasi Uttar Pradesh 13/09/1991 195 (6’ 5’’) 95 G/F
10 Amritpal Singh Ganna Pind Punjab

 

05/01/1991 207 (6’ 9.5’’) 110 C
12 Philip Basil Sulthanbathery Kerala 10/01/1991 184 (6’) 76 G/F
14 Yadwinder Singh Rasulpur Khurd Punjab 30/12/1986 198 (6’ 6’’) 95 F
15 Pethani Rikin Sajiavadar Amreli Gujarat

 

02/12/1990 203 (6’ 8”) 104 C
22 Bhardwaj Ravi Chandigarh Chandigarh

 

31/10/1992 207 (6’ 9”) 100 F/C
25 Ragupathy Hariram Chennai Tamil Nadu 24/04/1998 184 (6’) 72 SG
27 Amjyot Singh Chandigarh Punjab/ Haryana 27/01/1992 203 (6’ 8”) 104 F
46 Sivakumar Prasanna Venkatesh Gobichettipalayam Tamil Nadu 25/09/1992 186 (6’ 1”) 85 G/F
66 Pari Akilan Chennai Tamil Nadu 20/07/1989 180 (5’ 10’’) 70 PG
99 Talwinderjit Singh Patiala Punjab

 

20/10/1986 182 (5’ 11’’) 80 PG

*PG – Point Guard / Feeder, G – Guard, F – Forward, G/F – Wing, PF – Power Forward, C – Centre, PF/C – Post

13) Coach: Sat Prakash Yadav

14) Coach: C. V. Sunny

15) Physiotherapist: Nikhil N. P.

16) Manager: Shaktikumar Mahipatsinh Gohil

17) FIBA Commissioner: Norman Swaroop Issac

18) FIBA Referee: Atanu Banerjee

Team Ekalavyas
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