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Iraq pull off huge upset of China for a spot in Semi-Finals
Iraq came into this game as dangerous squad owing to their past competitive matches and the momentum they gained from blowing out Thailand on Day 6, but they were in their finest form yet as they upset Group E top seed China. The Chinese led at the half, 43-39, but they just didn’t have the poise and execution in crunch time to stave off Iraq’s fourth quarter surge.
Turning Point: Iraq were trailing, 63-60, entering the fourth period, but they held China to just 2 points in the first five minutes of the final frame while scoring 11 of their own to snatch the advantage, 71-65. That permanently turned the tide in favor of coach Srdjan Antic’s squad, and coach Li Nan’s wards just couldn’t fully recover.
Stats Don't Lie: China were red hot from beyond the arc, hitting 20 of their 38 three-point attempts, but this was offset by their poor play in the paint. China were outrebounded, 47-36, and were outscored in the box, 44-14. Iraq did a swell job containing Chinese giants Hu Jinqiu and Zou Yuchen, and also forced coach Li Nan’s side to commit 21 turnovers. China were just taken out of their comfort zone, and they couldn’t fully adjust.
Game Hero: As expected, naturalized player Kevin Galloway rose to the occasion to carry Iraq past China. The 2.00m combo forward lit up the scoreboard for 26 points on top of 13 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and 1 block. His combination of size, speed and athleticism just proved to be a tragic mismatch for which the Chinese had no answer.
The Bottom Line: Iraq’s backs looked to be against the wall at the halftime break, but they played well enough in the endgame to prevail over a deeper opponent. China’s youth and inexperience didn’t serve them well in the fourth period when Iraq went on their run, and this will be a tough pill for them to swallow and learn from. Iraq face another uphill climb in the Semi-Finals tomorrow against Korea, which beat them on Day 5, 102-80.