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    Jong Uichico says defense still the key for Gilas in sweep of Thais

    Dec 1, 2020

    THREES allowed Gilas Pilipinas to break the game wide open, but if not for its defense, its Monday game against Thailand could have been much closer.

    Coach Jong Uichico stressed that it was the Filipinos' defense which proved to be crucial in its 93-69 victory over the Thais on Monday in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Manama.

    "The lead we had in the first game was very big, so we were concerned that they might take the game for granted," he said, looking back to Friday's dominant 93-61 win.

    "We really harped on executing the offense and playing better defense."

    Gilas really made sure to double down on the defensive end, starting the game with an 11-0 assault as its suffocating defense made life hard for Thailand.

    Unfortunately, this overeagerness also led to fouls, gifting free throws to the opposition which made things close early on.

    But unlike in the first game where both teams ended up with 43 rebounds each, Gilas made sure to rule the boards in this second outing, outrebounding Thailand, 52 to 41.

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    "The coaches told us to set our defense, and execute our plays, to win the second game," agreed Justine Baltazar, who focused more on crashing the glass as he grabbed 11 rebounds to add to his two points.

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    Uichico noted that Thailand was better prepared.

    "Thailand played a better game today than they did the first game," he commented, with Chanatip Jakrawan being the lone beacon of hope for the Thais.

    Still, the opposition had no answer to the Philippines' outside game, shooting 16-of-33 from downtown to put the game away in the second half.

    Gilas moved up to 3-0 in Group A of the qualifiers with the February 2021 window still to be played.

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