A lack of depth finally caught up with Team Taiwan in the Thursday's game, as the hosts simply ran out of gas in the final quarter against a bigger-and-stronger Qatar squad to drop their second game in six tries in this year's Jones's Cup competition by a final score of 89-84.
The 3,000-plus fans on hand at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium witnessed Taiwan play a sound first half by placing constant pressure against Team Qatar with a combination of a full-court press and a half-court trap defense, en route to a 51-48 half-time lead. But the high-pressured defense used up a lot of energy, leaving the shorthanded Taiwanese (only seven players deep) exhausted by the start of the fourth quarter.
Taiwan missed several three-pointer attempts from beyond the arc as Qatar pulled away in the closing minutes.
"I'm quite pleased with the way we played the pressure defense in the first half," Taiwan head coach Lee Yun-kuan said after the game. "It showed the results of our month-long training camp in the US."
Lee is without the services of his top three players in Chen Hsin-an (Yulon Dinos), Tien Lei (Dacin Tigers) and Lin Chih-jeh, all out of the tournament because of unspecified injuries.
Offensively for Taiwan, point guard Lee Hsueh-lin (Dinos) made the most of his flashing speed by driving into the paint and breaking off early on fast breaks for a game-high 23 points.
Unfortunately, 18 of Lee's 23 points came during the first half.
Qatar eventually found a way to beat Taiwan's half-court trap and Turki Ali's 19 points led a pack of five players that scored in double-figures in a balanced attack.
The 14-rebound edge by Qatar (46-to-32) also made things tough off the glass for Team Taiwan.
Taiwan 68, Russia 66
Close plays dominated the game between Taiwan and Russia on Wednesday, in which the hosts prevailed 68-66.
Neither club managed to realize leads larger than six points, reflecting the conservative approach that both skippers took in the lowest-scoring contest for either team thus far.
It was not until Chang Chih-fong's (Tigers) pair of free throws with under 20 seconds left in the game that broke a 66-66 tie.
Down by a deuce, the Russians quickly advanced the ball up the court and actually had a chance to win the game on shooter Gennady Zelenskiy's three-point attempt or force a tie with a put-back effort off an offensive rebound.
But neither shot dropped for the visitors as the final buzzer sounded to hand the Russians their first defeat of the competition.
Chang and his backcourt mate Yang Yu-ming (ETTV Antelopes) accounted for 42 of Taiwan's 68 points, as the taller Russian front court took away the low post.
The height disadvantage didn't keep big man Tseng Wen-ding (Dinos) from patrolling the middle of paint on defense with his 11 boards and five blocked shots, both game-high totals.
Pavel Ulyanko's 25-point, eight-rebound night was the focal point of an inconsistent Russian offense that seemed brilliant at times.
Forwards Andrey Petukhov and Vladislav Konovalov also pitched in 11 and seven points, respectively, to go along with their 12 rebounds.
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