Overcoming deficits as large as nine points in the first quarter, Taiwan played a brilliant second quarter to claim a slim lead at halftime, before holding off a late-game rally by Lebanon to garner an 81-74 victory last night in their fourth game at this year’s William Jones Cup.
A near-sellout crowd at the Taipei Physical Education College Gymnasium in Tianmu saw the visitors take a surprising 21-12 lead, with sharpshooter Hussein El Khatib netting eight in the opening quarter, including a pair of three-pointers.
However, the hosts were not rattled by the early deficit as they looked to the inside-outside scoring tandem of Tseng Wen-ding and Lu Cheng-rue, whose nine points apiece helped Taiwan outscore Lebanon 24-14 in the second quarter to end the first half with a narrow 36-35 advantage.
Five quick points by Taiwan’s James Mao early in the third quarter put the hosts ahead 43-37, before the visitors rolled off a 12-6 run to tie things up at 49-49 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.
Mao’s clutch three with time running out on the shot clock late in the third gave Taiwan a 52-49 lead, one they would not relinquish again, despite an all-out effort by Lebanon highlighted by a rare four-point play from Elie Stephan that instantly halved Taiwan’s eight-point lead midway through the fourth quarter.
Fortunately for Taiwan, reserve guard Su Yi-jeh came off the bench and scored eight of his team’s final dozen points in the final three minutes to keep the victory intact.
“We really couldn’t afford to lose another one, so I tried to give it my best with the game on the line,” Su said after the game.
His timely surge with normal starter Lee Hseuh-lin out nursing an eye injury was the difference.
Next up for Taiwan are Jordan, who got the benefit of a day off yesterday, while Lebanon take on Taiwan’s Guan-hua in what should be an easy victory for the Middle East side.
Yesterday’s other results:
‧ US 126, Taiwan Guan-hua 71
‧ Philippines 82, South Korea 79
‧ Japan 84, Jordan 83