South Korea vs. China, 63:54
It wasn’t the outcome that the heavily favored Chinese National Team expected for their first encounter in the “Group of Death” (Group C), but the stingy South Korean defense proved to be too much for the Asian juggernaut to overcome. It was a low scoring affair with South Korea coming up with the upset 63:54. Despite former Milwaukee Bucks draftee Yi Jianlian (212 cm) scoring 23 points and grabbing 10 boards to lead China, it was a matter of Korea being more active on the glass and rotating well on the defensive end to stymie China in the final quarter of the game. Joo-Sung Kim (205 cm) led the Korean squad with 15 points, shooting perfectly from both the field (6-6) and the line (3-3).
Even though it isn’t uncommon for teams to come back after initial losses in the preliminary rounds of such tournaments, one thing that can be taken away was that “Beasts from the East” were not unbeatable, opening the doors for other teams to aspire for the same outcome.
Iran vs. Malaysia, 115:25
The first game of the tournament brought a completely different story to the court. Iran, thanks to the dominant presence of former NBA center Hamed Haddadi (218 cm) in the paint with 21 points and eight rebounds, completely crushed the hapless Malaysian five.
The Malaysian players just looked out of it. They couldn’t make anything happen in the halfcourt set, nor could they make any real defensive stops, in order to convert it into some kind of transition offense. They had only on player who managed to score in double figures, Hong Hoong Gan (186 cm), who finished the game with 11 points.
The top three teams from each group will advance to the second round of eliminations. Malaysia is clearly the odd man out of this group and is not expected to be able to put up much of a fight. Even though China will almost certainly advance, the records in the preliminary round will carry over for the overall win-loss tally for the tournament so every win or loss counts.
Aside from that, there’s always that psychological advantage that South Korea now holds over their rivals, not to mention that it cannot possibly be good for team morale to come up short to start things off.
Here are the other results from the opening day of the FIBA Asia Championship:
Saudi Arabia vs. Philippines, 66:78
Jordan vs. Chinese Taipei, 87:91
Japan vs. Qatar, 74:75
Kazakhstan vs. Thailand, 81:67
India vs. Bahrain, 80:82