IRAN turned a keenly awaited match into a ghastly rout, manhandling defending champion China, 70-51, to sweep its Group C matches on Saturday night in the Fiba-Asia Championship preliminaries at the Mall of Asia Arena.
The Iranians proved too strong for a Chinese five without NBA veteran Yi Jian Lian as they pounded the ball on the paint on the way to a surprisingly easy victory against Asia’s most dominant basketball team.
“We played a very good game for 40 minutes. But we also made a lot of mistakes in this game, but we’re happy that we won,” said Iran coach Mehmed Becirovic.
Four Iran players scored in double figures led by 7-2 star center Hamed Haddadi, who finished with 15 points and seven rebounds.
Forward Oshin Sahakian came through with 13 points and seven boards, while Hamed Afagh and gunner Nikkhah Bahrami Samad chipped in 12 and 10, respectively.
China national coach Giannakis Panagiotis said they don’t want to risk Yi’s condition, opting to preserve their athletic forward for the more important games ahead.
“Yi has a little problem before coming here. But we want him to be healthy in the knockout games so we will try day by day,” explained the well-known Greek coach nicknamed 'The Dragon.'
China’s two giant Wangs - Zhizhi and Zhelin - were no match for Haddadi as the Chinese big men were too slow to guard the Iranian behemoth.
The 35-year-old Wang played 19 minutes and scored nine points as well as five rebounds, but the younger Wang Zhelin struggled with just six markers and a rebound in 20 minutes of play.
China finished the Group C first round play with a 1-2 record, behind Iran’s 3-0 and South Korea’s 2-1. Malaysia bowed out of contention with its 0-3 record.
Iran 70- Hamed Haddadi 15, Sahakian Oshin 13, Afagh Hamed 12, Nikkhah Mahrami Samad 10, Sohrabnejad Hamed 6, Kardoust Asghar 6, Davoudichegani Aren 3, Kamrany Mahdi 3, Veisi Saman 2, Argahvan Rouzbeh 0
China 51- Wang Shipeng 11, Wang Zhizhi 9, Liu Xiaoyu 6, Zhou Peng 6, Wang Zhelin 6, Li Xiaoxu 6, Zhu Fangyu 4, Guo Ailun 3, Sun Yue 0, Cheng Jianghua 0, Zhang Bo 0
Quarterscores: 26-16, 41-24, 54-41, 70-51