The Indian basketball team endured a 60-115 loss to Lebanon on its return to the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers at the Khalifa Sports City Stadium in Manama, Bahrain on Friday.
Playing without their experienced centre Amritpal Singh and Aravind Annadurai, India found it hard to match up to Lebanon’s speed and tenacity on the court.
Leading the Lebanese was their highest scorer of the competition Wael Arakji, who dropped another 20 points along with four rebounds and two assists.
For India, Amjyot Singh once again proved his credentials as one of the best hoopsters in the country and was the only player to reach double digits. The Punjab player scored 25 points, managed five rebounds and two assists.
The loss means India continue to occupy the third spot in Group D of the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers while Lebanon strengthened their hold at the top with an all-win record in the competition so far.
Asserting their supremacy from the tip-off, Lebanon barely encountered any resistance throughout the game as they drove to the Indian basket to score at will.
Sergio El Darwich, the 24-year-old shooting guard who plays in the NCAA leagues, dictated play with his precise passing and the ability to find openings in a confused Indian paint.
Arakji and Ali Mansour too were on top of their game as Lebanon closed the opening quarter with a 10-point lead.
For India, their strategy to play for a zonal defence back-fired as the Veselin Matic-coached side lacked understanding, allowing the Lebanese to run into spaces and lay up easy baskets.
The 10-point lead soon grew big as Lebanon fired on all cylinders to take a 23-point lead at half time.
With mounting pressure, the Indians were drawn into committing numerous errors while their head coach was forced into rotating the players to avoid them from being ejected.
Indian basketball team captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi had a rather quiet game and was often missing in transitions while Muin Bek Hafeez, the 24-year-old power forward who averaged 18.5 points in the competition before today, failed to score a single point on Friday.
The Indian basketball team will have to turn things around Sunday when they take on hosts Bahrain if they are to aim for the direct qualification slot for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup.