A tough test awaits the Philippine national men’s basketball team as it clashes with familiar foe South Korea in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday at Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon.
One of Gilas Pilipinas’ biggest rivals in Asia, Korea remains to be a thorn in the side of the Filipinos who have always struggled against the East Asian squad.
In fact, the Koreans have won four of their past five matchups against Gilas Pilipinas. The Filipinos did beat them, 86-79, in a memorable 2013 FIBA Asia Championship semifinal game, but they have dropped three straight games against Korea since then.
Gilas Pilipinas’ latest loss to the Koreans came just last July in the William Jones Cup, 83-72, in a game that saw the Philippine team composed mostly of cadets shoot an atrocious one-for-26 from downtown.
The Koreans’ pesky zone defense was the ultimate reason behind that, and they have also unleashed it in the ongoing FIBA Asia Cup. In the tournament, Korea has won three of its four games including an upset of Oceania powerhouse New Zealand in the group stages.
In order to win, Gilas Pilipinas has to overcome Korea’s zone by finding the gaps in defense and shooting the lights out from the perimeter.
After settling for third place in Group C, Korea had to battle Japan in a play-off for a quarterfinal spot last Monday. The Koreans stamped their class in that one, going on a 23-1 run in the second half to notch an 81-68 win and set up a date with Gilas Pilipinas.
Korean players Gilas Pilipinas has to keep an eye on are veteran forward Oh Sekeun who leads his team with 13.8 points and 5.5 rebounds; and guard Kim Sunhyung who is averaging 12.8 points and 4.8 assists.
Gilas Pilipinas could be in full force in its big game against Korea. Christian Standhardinger, who missed the team’s game versus Qatar last Sunday due to nagging neck and shoulder pain, vowed to play in the quarterfinals, while Calvin Abueva is looking good after a bad fall last outing.
Reigning three-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo also told Sports5’s Jutt Sulit that he’s ready to finally return to action. “The Kraken” has been sidelined in the tournament due to a calf injury.