SOUTH Korea relied on crisp ball movement, a swarming defense and a little luck to pull off a shock 63-59 victory over defending champion China on Thursday night at the start of the two teams' campaign in the Fiba-Asia championships at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Showing no fear against China's frontline of seven-footers made up on Yi Jianlian, Wang Zhelin and Wang Zhizhi in the first half, the Koreans repeatedly attacked the paint, thanks to gutsy guards led by Yang Dong Geun and Cho Sung Min.
“We practiced a lot before playing against China. We know China got taller guys than our team but we’re happy because we were able to overcome the height of China,” said South Korea’s national coach Yoo Jae Hak.
Big man Kim Joo Sung, who admitted battling Yi and the two Wangs was a tall task, managed to lead the Koreans with 15 points as he became the recipient of most of Yang's passes in the second half.
It was the second successive win over China for the South Koreans, who also beat their longtime nemesis in the battle for the basketball gold, 79-68, in the last East Asian Games in Tianjin, China.
Cho added 12 points and three four rebounds while the pint-sized Yang, one of South Korea’s young but speedy point guards, added 11 and four assists in a gung-ho effort.
“He’s (Yi) a good player. He’s tall, fast and also I had a hard time defending him, but I did my best,” said the 6-8 Kim, who got posterized several times by China’s NBA veteran.
Yi was China’s lone double-figure scorer with 23 points and 10 rebounds, but he had five turnovers.
South Korea 63- Kim Joo Song 15, Cho Sung Min 12, Yang Dong Geun 11, Kim Sun Hyung 9, Lee Sung Jun 6, Kim Tae Sool 3, Moon Seong Gon 2, Kim Jong Kyu 2, Choi Jun Yong 2, Lee Jong Hyun 1, Kim Min Goo, Yoon Ho Yung
China 59 - Yi 23, Zhou Peng 8, Liu 6, Wang Zhelin 5, Wang Zhizhi 4, Zhu 4, Guo 2, Sun 2, Zhang 2, Wang Shipeng 1, Li 0
Quarter scores: 13-15, 29-31, 46-42, 63-59