Beware the Saudis | Philstar.com
August 28, 2022 | 00:00
Gilas host Saudi Arabia in the fourth qualifying window for the FIBA World Cup Asia at MOA Arena tomorrow night and fans are expecting a treat with NBA goalkeeper Jordan Clarkson up front. But as coach Chot Reyes aims for a big win, he’s not taking Saudi Arabia lightly.
In the qualifying series, Saudi Arabia beat tough Jordan once and twice SEA Games gold medalist Indonesia. Arabia are a scrappy team that won’t give up. But the Saudis are undersized with 6-9 center Muhammad Almarwani, 33, the only tower in the lineup. His teammates are 6-5 and under. Six Gilas players stand at least 6-5 with 7-3 Kai Sotto the flagship in the cast.
Saudi Arabia didn’t do badly against Lebanon in the first of two qualifiers, losing 13 in an 81-68 battle. Lebanese Ali Haidar had 23 points and Wael Arakji 15 but the Cedars failed to eliminate the Saudis who trailed by three at halftime. In their second encounter, Lebanon prevailed, 90-60. Saudi Arabia is coming off an 80-65 loss to New Zealand. Center Mohammed Alsuwailem, 6-10, is out for Gilas’ outing, averaging 10.8 points and 10.5 rebounds in the playoffs. He would have faced Sotto and Japeth Aguilar in the middle.
Saudi top scorers are Almarwani, his younger brother Mathna, Khalid Abdel Gabar and Musab Tariq Kadi. Against New Zealand, Gabar had 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists in 35:27 minutes while Mathna scored 16 points, including two hat-tricks, in 31:08 minutes. Kadi, a 6-5 power forward, had seven points and seven boards in 30:02 minutes. The Almarwanis’ father was the captain of the Saudi team more than 25 years ago, so there is a basketball legacy in their line. Gabar, a six-foot guard, took 15 field goal attempts and Mathna 14 in the game against New Zealand. Together, they accounted for 45% of total Saudi fire from the ground. Gilas will know who to score tomorrow.
Last Thursday’s 85-81 loss to Lebanon was heartbreaking for Gilas. The Philippines committed 21 turnovers against Lebanon’s nine and the extra possessions allowed the home side to make another 15 field goal tries, 70-55. If only Gilas had had five less turnovers, Lebanon could have lost. Gilas shot a higher clip, 43.6-37.1%, but Lebanon made up for in volume and more three-point connections, 11-6.” The turnovers were due to a lack of familiarity “, said Reyes. “A little more practice and we would have beaten the best team in Asia today on their home turf.” Lebanon finished second behind Australia, losing the final by two points, at the recent FIBA Asia Cup. Although Australia participates in the FIBA Asia Cup, they represent Oceania at the Olympics.
Gilas lost to Lebanon by 15 in the FIBA Asia Cup and last Thursday the Cedars unveiled two stalwarts who didn’t face the Philippines in Jakarta – 6-9 Ali Haidar and 6-2 Amir Saoud. Arakji came away with 24 points, as expected, with Saoud delivering 17 in 20:34 minutes and Haidar contributing 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists in 32:34 minutes. Despite upsets and a raucous home crowd, the Philippines fought hard to nearly topple the FIBA Asia Cup runners-up.