China Kashgar narrowly escape upset against determined Al Rayyan
CHENZHOU (FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016) – Hosts China Kashgar woke up just in time and rallied late in the fourth quarter and overtime to narrowly defeat a determined Al Rayyan, 95-84, at Quarter-Finals of the FIBA Asia Champions Cup 2016 in Chenzhou, China.
Darius Adams struggled for practically the entire game before he caught fire late in the fourth quarter and in overtime to lead China Kashgar past the spirited Qataris. Before Adams lit up the scoreboard, though, Andray Blatche, Zhou Qi and Li Gen took up the scoring cudgels for the home team. Blatche ended up with 22 points and 10 rebounds, while Zhou finally had a big outing, putting up 23 points and a dozen boards. National team sniper Li Gen also impressed, hitting big shots in the second half en route to 11 points.
Al Rayyan import Preston Knowles’s monster game went down the drain with their fourth quarter meltdown. Knowles tallied 37 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals, though he shot just 1-of-11 from beyond the arc. Hassan Mohamed and Yehia Abdelhaleem backed him up with a combined 35 points.
Turning Point: After trailing in the first quarter, Al Rayyan dominated the middle two periods to take a 7-point advantage into the final frame, but the hosts sliowly chipped away at the deficit. Al Rayyan actually led by 10 as late as the 4:26 mark of the last quarter before the outside shooting of Blatche and Li brought them with three points, 73-70. Zhou Qi’s free throws then cut the deficit to a solitary point before Knowles hit two free throws of his own for a 75-72 edge with 17 ticks to go. That’s when Adams, who had been atrocious from the field, reversed his fortunes and hit the three-pointer that sent the match into an extra inning. China rode the momentum in the overtime, outscoring the Qataris, 20-9, to peg the final score and escape with a narrow triumph.
Stats Don't Lie: It was all about depth in this game. Al Rayyan had some explosive players in Knowles, Mohamed and Abdelhaleem, but in crunch time they just didn’t have the legs. Al Rayyan coach Stergios Koufos fielded only seven players here, with Mohamed Abdelkawy and Abdelhaleem playing the entire 45 minutes. This is where China’s depth shone through, as coach Li Qiuping’s bench came to the fore, outscoring their Qatari counterparts, 44-2. That’s absolutely staggering, and China have Li, Zhou and Mugedaer Xirelijiang to thank for giving the second unit a much needed scoring punch.
Game Hero: From zero to hero — that was the story for import Darius Adams. He shot 4-of-12 from the field in the first three quarters and actually missed all three of his shots in the fourth period before swishing that pivotal three-pointer with 2 seconds left. He then went 4-of-4 in the overtime, including hitting 2 triples, that really broke the back of Al Rayyan. Adams finished with 27 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block and 5 three-pointers.
The Bottom Line: China Kashgar have to feel extremely fortunate to come out with a win in this one. No matter what they did, it seemed like Al Rayyan had the perfect counter. It’s just that the Qataris ran out of steam when the game went into overtime, and the Chinese’s depth and bench production just spelled the huge difference. China will now face Petrochimi in the Semi-Finals, and they know they can ill-afford another subpar effort.