Gilas Pilipinas assistant coach Jong Uichico was quick to defend head coach Chot Reyes after Gilas Pilipinas’ demoralizing 86-118 loss to South Korea on Thursday morning that booted out the PH 5 in title contention of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) Asia Cup in Beirut, Lebanon.
The lack of preparation for the tournament took the toll on the team as South Korea displayed cohesiveness all throughout the match, allowing them to get open shots from behind the arc where they sank 16 of 21 triples for an impressive 76 percent clip.
“We only practiced for few days before departing for Lebanon. We should give ample time to practice for any tournament. Even the team which has longer preparation losses, what more if you prepared just for two weeks,” Uichico told The Manila Times.
“It is given that (South) Korea can shoot that’s why a longer preparation is vital,” he added.
Gilas 5 had a promising start in the tournament, sweeping all of its three games in the preliminary round in Group B including a 96-87 victory over defending champion China.
They also beat Iraq, 84-68, and Qatar, 80-74, to advance directly to the quarterfinals stage.
On the contrary, South Korea had a rough start in the tournament, losing its opening game to host Lebanon (66-72) but resurrected its campaign with a 76-75 upset win over Oceania powerhouse New Zealand. They flexed their muscles against Kazakhstan, 116-55.
The South Koreans beat Japan, 81-68, in the second phase of the preliminary stage to set up a quarterfinals match against the Philippines, Group B’s No. 1 team.
But the Filipino cagers hardly showed the energy and intensity they showed in their three wins and were a step slower against the South Koreans, who scored at will inside the paint and in the perimeter
The result was one-sided in favor of the South Koreans, who will advance to the semis and play against Asian powerhouse Iran.
“We shot only 56 percent and they (South Korea) shot better than us (76 percent),” said Uichico, the man tasked to defend the gold medal in the coming Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia next week.
Hot shooting was not the only weapon of the South Koreans in the quarterfinals match as they also displayed their tested teamwork as the squad of legendary Hur Jae dished out 34 assists.
The Philippines had only 14 helpers in 40 minutes and was 11-of-25 from the three-point territory.
If not for Terrence Romeo’s 22-point explosion in the second quarter, South Korea’s lead won’t be manageable entering the second half.
Tim Lewis, the British coach who took part in the team’s practice and now serves as the team consultant, admitted South Korea simply outplayed the PH 5 on Thursday.
“It was a tough game against South Korea. They threw their zone defense to us. Gilas and Terrence (Romeo) couldn’t get going in the second half. They limited his (Romeo) touches and the ability to score,” said Lewis, who once handled the Thailand national team.
“But I wouldn’t hang up on one game because there are still a lot of games ahead. This is just a temporary setback. I think coach Chot (Reyes) will reassess the team,” he added.
Reyes, in his interview with Sports 5 reporter Jutt Sulit, said the team was a victim of its early success and they had to face the consequences.
“We came in here with no expectations. But since we got this far [into the quarterfinals], we have no choice. The expectations pour in,” said Reyes.
Gilas is now relegated to the classification phase and will meet Lebanon on Saturday, hoping to salvage the highest finish (fifth) it could get in the tournament.
The Philippines was runner-up in the last two editions of the FIBA Asia Cup (formerly Asian Championships).