25 August, 2023
10 September
25 Ali Mezher (LBN), 7 Karim Zeinoun (LBN), 5 Amir Saoud (LBN)
Game Report
to read

Saoud, Spellman lead Lebanon to first win

JAKARTA (Indonesia) - Lebanon earned a deserved first win in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 by coming out on top against Cote d'Ivoire in a 94-84 affair.

With the automatic spot to the 2024 Olympics from Asia still up for grabs, Lebanon put themselves firmly in contention as they opened up the Classification Round 17-32 with a crucial victory behind the efforts of Amir Saoud and Omari Spellman.

Turning point:
Cote d'Ivoire kept hanging around in the fourth as Lebanon flirted with a double-digit lead. The score was 83-78 with three minutes left when Amir Saoud decided in favor of a heat check and knocked down a heavily contested three-pointer to put Lebanon up by eight. The Elephants cut the lead to as little as two points, yet Saoud's shot ultimately gave Lebanon just enough of an advantage. 

TCL Player of the Game: Saoud was locked in from the very start of the game and had 16 points in the first half, closing out the second quarter with another dagger. The experienced guard stepped up in Wael Arakji's absence and scored 29 points, dished out 8 assists and grabbed 5 rebounds.

Spellman had a huge game of his own to finish with 25 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 blocks in the win with Jean Philippe Daily posting  21 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals in defeat.

Stats don't lie: Lebanon was unconscious from deep at certain points of the game. The victors converted 16-of-32 shots from three-point range, while the three-ball went in only 9-of-28 times for Cote d'Ivoire.

Bottom line: Lebanon's victory gives them hope that they are still capable of overtaking Japan in the race for a spot in Paris 2024. They will face Iran on Saturday, while Japan also have one win and an additional game in hand.

Cote d'Ivoire are one of five African teams to have one win in the bag, however, their next contest is against a wounded giant in France. They now have had two tight losses in a row, so time will only tell whether they will fix their mistakes in a must-win situation.

They said: "We didn't show up for the first half. We needed a little time to wake up. The second half was quite hectic. We didn't control things on the court. When we caught up with Lebanon, we tried to calm things down, but we just weren't able to control things today. We made a lot of mistakes. That's also my responsibility, because this obviously was not the result we wanted." - Dejan Prokic, Cote d'Ivoire head coach

"It is unfortunate. Obviously, it's not the result that we wanted. We came to the game pretty confident about our opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. We didn't accomplish our goal and have to regroup for the next game." - Patrick Tape, Cote d'Ivoire

"We as coaches wish to play 40 minutes of consistent basketball, but it's not easy. We controlled the first half, played great on offense and defense. Respect to all the players who fought hard on defense. Big respect to Amir for what he did today. Most people don't know that before the World Cup there was a 90 percent chance he was out. One day he did the MRI and there was a positive sign he could be here with us." - Jad El Hajj, Lebanon head coach

"I want to thank the coach, the management and the federation. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be in the World Cup. I had an injury and they believed that I could help them. Our job as veterans was focusing on what's important, being disciplined and focusing on these two games. Thank God we got our first win in the World Cup. Coach is the first Lebanese coach to get a win in the World Cup. That means a lot to everybody on the squad." - Amir Saoud, Lebanon