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Asian Qualifiers: India suffer heavy loss against New Zealand in opener

India lost the Group A match 101-46. Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon was India’s top scorer with 10 points.

The Indian men’s basketball team was handed a heavy 101-46 drubbing by New Zealand in their opening Group A clash of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers campaign at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City in Quezon City, Philippines on Thursday.

Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon was India’s top scorer with 10 points followed by Princepal Singh with seven. Kiwi power forward Tom Vodanovich was the highest scorer in the match with 21 points.

Against New Zealand, ranked world No. 27 in the FIBA rankings, India, ranked 80th, made a poor start. The All Blacks took a 5-0 lead before Muin Bek Hafeez finally opened the scoring for India with a two-pointer.

However, New Zealand dominated the first quarter after that, riding on a brilliant offensive display by Tom Vodanovich. The first quarter ended with New Zealand leading 32-8.

In the second quarter, India recovered from the early shock and put up a much tighter defensive display, spearheaded by captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi. The Kiwis, however, managed to take a 52-25 lead in the second half, leaving India with a mountain to climb in the second.

In the final two quarters, the Indian basketball players put up a spirited display but were outclassed by a much stronger New Zealand team on the court. The match eventually ended 101-46 in New Zealand’s favour.

India will next play hosts Philippines, the world No. 33, on Friday. South Korea, ranked 30th in the world, are the other team in Group A. Each team will face each other twice in the group.

The Indian team needs to finish in the top three in their group to qualify for the second round of the qualifiers.

The FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be co-hosted by the Philippines and Japan in August-September next year. India have never qualified for a basketball World Cup.

By Utathya Nag

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