Unable to overcome a horrendous second quarter in which they were held scoreless for six-and-a-half minutes in a 17-0 run by Iran, Taiwan squandered a nine-point first-quarter lead to lose 79-60 in the semi-finals of the FIBA Asia Championship in Manila last night.
The defeat sent Taiwan into this afternoon’s bronze medal game against the Philippines, losers in their 86-79 semi-final match against South Korea yesterday, ending Taiwan’s hope for the title.
The loss followed a stunning 96-78 victory over defending champions China the night before in a cross-strait duel that stirred the entire nation into a frenzy.
“The 17-0 run was the decisive factor in today’s loss, it really exposed some of our weaknesses in ball-handling and our inability to deal with pressure in a high-tension situations,” famed commentator Yen Hsing-shu (顏行書) said after the game.
His words fittingly summed up the game for Taiwan, who lost starting point guard Lee Hsueh-lin to an injury earlier in the week and were forced to play with only two guards on the lineup.
Lee’s absence clearly played the Islanders right into the hands of an in-your-face pressuring defense from Iran that forced seven deadly turnovers in the second quarter alone.
Even though Taiwan are guaranteed a fourth-place finish in this year’s tournament — their best result since 1999 — and are one win away from the bronze medal which would qualify them for next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain, there was no denying the agony on the players faces after the bitter loss.
Carrying the momentum from the win over China into yesterday’s game, Taiwan opened the contest with a bang as they shot 10-for-15 (67 percent) from the field in a stellar first quarter to enjoy a surprising 23-14 lead against the three-time champions.
However, with Iran heightening their intensity on defense and Taiwan’s perimeter unable to connect from mid-range for a good part of the second quarter, the Islanders quickly found themselves trailing Iran by a dozen in the second quarter.
An 8-2 run late in the quarter helped keep the deficit at six at the half.
That was as close as Taiwan got to victrory as Iran sustained their pressure on defense to hold their opponents to a tournament-low four points in the third quarter while widening the lead to more than 20, determining the outcome of the game long before the final buzzer.
Four different players scored in double-digits for Iran, led by Mahdi Kamrany with a game-high 19, while Quincy Davis was the lone Taiwan player to come away with double-digit points, netting 16 on the night.