Syria pull off comeback to advance, Iran complete sweep for Quarter-Finals berth
JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Syria complete a massive comeback in an emotional win to avoid elimination, while Iran lock up Japan and the top spot in Group C.
In the first game for Group C in the day, Syria flipped the switch after a slow start to beat Kazakhstan, 77-67, and avoid elimination from Asia Cup 2022.
It didn't look like a good start for Syria as they scored only 2 points in the first 6 minutes of the game, falling behind 13-2 to the Steppen Wolves. The team regrouped and responded aggressively on both ends to get ahead before the end of the first half. From there, the lead continued to grow and they never looked back. They led by as much as 22 points before Kazakhstan tried to comeback, but it was too late. With the win, Syria finish as third place in Group C, getting them a spot in the Qualification for the Quarter-Finals.
Nadim Issa (15 points) was the hero for Syria in the first quarter as his 11 points were the reason that the team were able to keep it close early on. The third quarter then became the Isshak Oubeid (9 points, 9 rebounds) show as he set the tone by scoring and passing for Syria's big run. The leading scorer for Syria was Omar Cheikh Ali who had 20 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 three-pointers. Big man Abdulwahab Ahamwi also recorded a double-double with 15 points and 16 rebounds.
Youngster Oleg Balashov concludes his first ever Asia Cup with an impressive outing of 16 points to lead Kazakhstan in scoring.
The win was Syria's first in Asia Cup 2022 which was enough to secure third place in Group C and advance to the Qualification to Quarter-Finals.
Meanwhile, in the other game of the group, Iran put their defensive abilities on display in an 88-76 win over Japan.
The game started out fast-paced which allowed Japan to stay close and trail by only 3 points at the end of the first quarter, but Iran were able to control the momentum as the game slowed down.
The trio of Behnam Yakhchali, Hamed Haddadi, and Mohammad Jamshidi all scored at least 20 points and combined for a total of 62 points in the win. Haddadi recorded yet another double-double with 21 points and 11 rebounds while also getting 4 assists and 3 blocks.
Japan fought their way back from down by as much as 24 points down to as close as 14 points, but the run started too late in the contest to overcome. As the team struggled to connect on their shots, Soichiro Inoue was perfect from the field on his four three-point attempts to tally for 12 points in this matchup.
With the win, Iran remain undefeated to clinch first place in the group and wait for their Quarter-Finals pairing. Meanwhile, Japan will have to play in the Qualification to the Quarter-Finals.
Coach Javier Juarez pointed out how important Isshak Oubeid was in this win and he was right to do so. The point guard was phenomenal early in the third quarter, slicing up the defense with driving layups and on-point passes. His 6 points and 4 assists in the third quarter kept the level of energy up for Syria and helped build a lead big enough to withstand the late run by the Steppen Wolves.
Japan did eventually make a run towards the end, but the block by Arsalan Kazemi on Yuta Watanabe seemed like a significant moment early in the game that set the tone for Iran. Considering that Watanabe had a hard time scoring (6-15 from the floor), it was definitely key for Iran to not let him get into a groove.
Aside from leading the team in scoring, Omar Cheikh Ali also made key shots as Kazakhstan came closing in during the fourth quarter. There were plenty of key players in the game for Syria, including Alhamwi who secured the paint for the team as well.
Tough to not go with Hamed Haddadi as the hero for Iran, even if coach Saeed Armaghani said that this win was certainly a team effort. Haddadi's size, playmaking, and veteran leadership was a big factor during various stretches throughout the entire game.
Stats don't lie
34 points. That was how big the turnaround was Syria, coming from down by as much as 12 points to lead by as much as 22. It's definitely one of the biggest point swings so far here in FIBA Asia Cup 2022.
Iran scored 20 points off of Japan's turnovers, which was certainly a big enough amount to concern coach Tom Hovasse. As a team that wants to play as fast as Japan, it's tough to commit turnovers and see those mistakes quickly get converted into points for the opposing team.
"We knew that we had to win this game, but it is what it is. It's happened." - Rustam Murzagaliyev, Kazakhstan
"Happily today, we proved that we came here to do something and now we're one of the 12 best teams in Asia Cup because we deserved it… We played with 11 players, with young players, we believed in our goal, fighting for the last chance and today we made it happen." - Nadim Issa, Syria
"We had a hard time stopping them and we had a hard time scoring… I loved how we played in the fourth quarter, we got some stops, we were scrappy, we were being super aggressive… I love how we ended the game and we just have to learn from it and get better." - Tom Hovasse, Japan Head Coach
"It seems like day by day we play better and I hope that we can go on like that in this tournament." - Saeed Armaghani, Iran Head Coach