Philippines Smart Gilas wins over Lebanon, hammers Uzbekistan in FIBA ASIA CUP

After a heart-breaking loss to China in the opener, Smart-Gilas Pilipinas national team won against Lebanon, 78-68 for its first win in the FIBA Asia Cup in Tokyo, Japan. Naturalized player Marcus Douthit hit 25 points and grabbed 21 rebounds to lead the Philippines' onslaught against powerhouse Lebanese squad. Lebanon was ahead at the end of the first quarter, 20-19. The lead increased to 41-38 at halftime. Gilas Pilipinas outscored Lebanon 21-12 in the pivotal third quarter and grabbed the front seat, 59-53.

Douthit showed dominance in the offensive by scoring second chance points from teammates' misses in the third period, scoring 8 of his 10 points in the quarter on follow ups. He sank a pair of free throws with 23 seconds remaining in the third period, gave the Philippines a six-point lead, the biggest in either team at that time.

In the fourth quarter, Douthit kept the Philippines' hopes alive connecting inside the paint to pilot Gilas ahead 70-61, with 3:29 remaining in the game. Gary David sank a crucial basket for a comfortable 72-66 margin 2:05 remaining. Another David score with 24 seconds remaining gave the assurance for the Philippines' victory. The triumph was sealed by two free throws by LA Tenorio with 14 seconds to go and a drive by Jared Dillinger 3 seconds into the end game. David and Tenorio contributed 11 points each while Dillinger had 10 for the Gilas Pilipinas win.

Fadi Khatib had 24 points and 15 rebounds while Garnett Thompson contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds for Lebanon, the defending champions of the tournament. Lebanon was the only team who defeated the Philippines during the recent 34th Jones Cup title run.

Philippines and Lebanon now tied at 1-1, while China and Uzbekistan led Group A with 1-0. Macau is at the tail end with 2-0. Philippines and Uzbekistan will face each other on Sunday.

The Smart-Gilas Pilipinas almost made it against the much taller Chinese team, but succumbed to poor shooting and lost, 71-68, in the opening game. The younger China players just averaged 20 years of age, but their height average is 6-foot-8 as against the Filipinos' 6-foot-4.

The Smart-Gilas team was formed in just less than a month and had not practiced solidly because of the conflicts of the players' practices with their mother teams in the PBA.

The FIBA Asia Cup was played since 2004, then 2008 and 2010. Qatar was champion in 2004 in Taipei, Jordan won the title in 2008 in Kuwait, while Lebanon won the crown in Beirut in 2010. The Philippines placed fourth in 2010 when they were defeated by Qatar for the bronze medal.

Smart Gilas hammers Uzbekistan

Smart Gilas Pilipinas, inspired by its 78-68 conquest of Lebanon Saturday, tore to shreds the lowly Uzbekistan side, 85-50, and secured a spot in the knockout stage of the fourth FIBA Asia Cup at the Ota Gymnasium here Sunday.

With a quarterfinal berth sealed, the Nationals go for a better seeding in the playoffs as they take on another unheralded rival in Macau, their last assignment in group matches, at 11:30 a.m. today.

The Filipinos completely dominated the Uzbeks whom they held scoreless for almost 10 minutes in one stretch in the match cheered on by the predominantly Filipino crowd at the spanking modern playing venue.

Smart Gilas ripped the game open, 37-16, on a swashbuckling 17-to-nothing run and the Nationals went through the motion of completing the victory that sent them to the next stage probably against Qatar or Chinese Taipei.

The easy match allowed coach Chot Reyes the luxury to rest his main players and experiment new combinations and some defensive ploys.

"The challenge was for the players not to develop bad habits in this game. What we wanted was to improve our good habits on defense," said Reyes.

Having scouted the Uzbeks as a mere five-deep team, Gilas starters Marcus Douthit, LA Tenorio, Ranidel de Ocampo, Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood wore them down early with a pressing defense and an up-tempo attack.

The Uzbeks seemed to have been exhausted by the time Reyes fielded his second team on a platoon substitution.

Larry Fonacier, Jarred Dillinger, Matt Ganuelas, Sonny Thoss and JayR Reyes kept the pressure, and the Nationals broke away in the second quarter, never to look back again.

The Uzbeks hardly had anything to offer in the final half which the Smart Gilas reserves turned into a first hand demonstration of their individual talents.

The Filipino crowd and the Gilas bench specifically cheered on Ganuelas as the 22-year-old Fil-Am guard put up highlight plays, including a two-handed jam, an acrobatic layup and an authoritative block of an Uzbek shot.

Ganuelas grabbed 11 rebounds, scored eight points, issued four assists and took three steals in 17 minutes of action – his longest exposure in a game from their Jones Cup title run.

Reyes, Thoss and Rico Villanueva also played long minutes and they collected good numbers although Chan still emerged the top scorer with 20 points on 8-of-15 field shooting.

Struggling with 1-of-9 three-point shooting in the first two games, Chan finally found his touch, converting four of seven attempts.

The whole team hit at a 40-percent clip (8-of-20) after shooting just 20 percent (4-of-20) in the first game versus China and 17 percent (6-of-35) in the next game versus Lebanon.

"We played the defense that we're practicing but we tried to hide some of our offensive plays," said Reyes who intended to do the same against Macau.

"We'll again rest our core players but we'll work hard in practice in the evening. We'll be off Tuesday and return to practice Wednesday in preparation for the quarters," Reyes also said.

Douthit played only 14:32 against Uzbekistan, getting nine points, four rebounds, one assist and one block against four turnovers. & philSTAR

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