Bahrain national coach Sasa Nikitovic has expressed his disgust over a cramped Fiba-Asia schedule that left his team playing two of Asia's top teams in a span of 12 hours.
Just 12 hours after getting plastered by South Korea, 96-51, Bahrain played tournament favorite Iran on Tuesday and suffered a 56-75 loss that not only booted the team out of the Fiba-Asia quarterfinal picture but also led to two more injuries to key players.
The Bahrainis played Monday’s nightcap versus South Korea that ended past midnight before going up against Iran at 12:45 p.m. on Tuesday.
Earlier on Tuesday, naturalized player CJ Giles left the country to have his right knee checked after a bad fall on Saturday in Bahrain’s 86-62 easy win over Thailand.
The Gulf Asian runners-up lost starters Ahmed Akber and Ahmed Ismaeel to injuries in the second half against Iran.
“I am very proud of my team on how we played today after just 12 hours of playing a very strong team (in South Korea on late Monday night). We’re in a random schedule, playing two strong teams, and now we have more players hurt to injuries aside from our naturalized player CJ,” said Nikitovic during the post-game interview.
“Now we have players hurt, this is Fiba’s problem. My players showed character playing against Iran, which is the strongest team in this competition,” added the Serbian coach who is barely a month into his coaching job with Bahrain.
Nikitovic said he was just hoping for Fiba-Asia to consider the team’s situation in the second round since his players had to wake up early and be at the Mall of Asia Arena in the morning to suit up in time for their Iran game.
But now out of the quarterfinal picture, Nikitovic said their hope is to play their best against an injury-riddled China team and try to pull off a miracle upset against the defending Asian champion.
“For us, it is a great experience to at least be able to play in the second round. But now to play against China as our next opponent, we know that is a must-win for them (Chinese), but we will just see,” he said.