New Delhi, 17 August: India's chances of making it through from the FIBA Olympic Basketball Pre-Qualifying Tournament Asia were dealt a blow after it suffered a 75-92 defeat against Saudi Arabia in Damascus, Syria on Wednesday.
This was India’s second straight loss in the competition. Only the top team from the six-team Pre-Qualifying Tournament will advance to the next round.
Saudi Arabia’s Khalid M Abdel Gabar and Musab Tariq M Kadi scored 15 points each and were the top scorers in the match. Amaan Sandhu scored 14 points and was the top scorer for India. He also made nine rebounds, two assists and two steals.
World No. 68 Saudi Arabia, who came into the contest on the back of two losses and a win, evenly matched the in-form Indians ranked 82nd, in the first two minutes.
However, after the scores were tied at 6-6, Saudi Arabia’s clinical shooting fetched them 13 points in a row while India, rattled by the onslaught, could not score a point in the next five minutes. The second quarter got worse for India, who trailed 14-27 at the end of the first. They could not match Saudi Arabia’s intensity and the deficit grew to 22 points.
Saudi Arabia’s lead swelled to 31 points midway into the third quarter. Pranav Prince got into the act as India cut the lead to 17 with 14 straight points. However, with scores at 70-50 at the end of the third quarter, India were left with a steep hill to climb.
India outscored Saudi Arabia in the fourth quarter as well by scoring 25 points compared to 22. However, they could not recover from the early setbacks.
India started their campaign with wins over hosts Syria and Indonesia but lost to Kazakhstan by three points in their previous encounter.
India’s next match is against world No. 84 Bahrain on Thursday. Bahrain is the second lowest-ranked side in the tournament but have put on impressive performances with wins over Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Syria.