HSINCHUANG CITY – Smart Gilas Team Pilipinas cranked up for the tough games ahead with an 83-52 whipping of the Taiwan University All Stars in the opener of the 32nd Williams Jones Cup International Basketball Tournament at the Hsinchuang Gymnasium here yesterday.
Japeth Aguilar started the game with the first of his five jams and the Nationals easily outplayed their youthful local rivals for the rousing victory priming them up for an acid test against back-to-back Fiba-Asia champion Iran today.
“It’s a nice win to begin our campaign in this tourney. We have new guys joining the team but we still played good basketball for most of the game. To me, it means we’re ready to compete,” said Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman.
“We have problems with the calls and we need to adjust to it. We’re looking forward to our next games. We look forward to playing Iran tomorrow (today),” Toroman added.
The Philippines beat Iran the last time they played here in 2007 but the Iranians have since gone on a roll, ruling the last two Asian jousts. Iran topped the Philippines in the 2007 Tokushima Fiba-Asia championship and repeated with a big win in last year’s Asian championship in Tianjin, China.
Against the TU All-Stars, Smart Gilas naturalization candidate Marcus Douthit came through with a double-double game with 15 points and 14 rebounds as he braced up for his battle with the Iranian giants.
“We got a good game that should get our confidence up,” said the 6-foot-10 Providence U product. “I’m not too happy with my performance as I could have played harder. I’ll try to come up with a lot more against Iran.”
Taiwan U coach Liu Chun-Yeh said they lost to a team that played good, aggressive hustling defense.
Smart Gilas put up a pressing defense most of the way, getting 19 steals which the Nationals translated to significant number of transition baskets.
Also operating well on half-court offense, the Nationals took control from start to finish for a triumphant start in the tourney serving as part of their buildup for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China this November.
Starters Douthit, Aguilar, JV Casio, Chris Tiu and Chris Lutz gave the team early double-digit spreads which the team stretched to as big as 34, 78-44, towards the end.
Toroman opted to sit out Douthit in the last seven minutes after the Nationals opened a 27-point bulge at 69-42 on a barrage of points from the outside by reserves RJ Jazul, Marcius Lassiter and Dylan Ababou.
The Nationals played a well-balanced game with Douthit, Lassiter, Aguilar, Ababou, Jazul, Lutz and Mac Baracael all making at least seven points each.
Douthit produced huge numbers though being the team’s last option offensively.
He went 6-of-10 from the field and 3-of-3 from the stripe while also chalking up three blocks, one assist and one steal in 26 minutes of action.
Greg Slaughter chipped in six points, two rebounds and one steal in being Douthit’s chief backup. Jason Ballesteros was good for six rebounds, two points and two blocks as the team’s third-string center.
Nelson Beltran, Philippine Star