FIBA U-18: India begins on a winning note

India next plays defending champion China on Saturday.

India's Hariram Raghupati (white) in action against Thailand.   -  FIBA

India's men's basketball team beat Thailand 100-93 in its opening match in the 24th FIBA under-18 men’s championship here on Friday. The team next plays defending champion China, which also won its opening game — an easy 93-28 victory over Iraq.

India's Vishal Kumar produced an all-round performance by scoring 16 points and securing 14 rebounds while also dishing out two assists. Coach Dilip Gurumurthy's side was largely untroubled during the match but will face a tough challenge when it takes on tournament favourite China next. India does have a history of beating China though. In 2014, the men's team created history when it beat China 65-58 during the fifth FIBA Asia Cup.

Keen to start off on a winning note in this all important first game, India on its ‘Big Three’ — guards P Baladaneshwar, Sahil and centre Vishal Kumar Gupta playing the full quota of 40 minutes.

Only two players — Mohammed Ali and Rachit — came off the bench, with the former scoring 15 points in a little under 21 minutes.

If there were any concerns regarding rustiness on India’s part, those were quickly put to rest as the side outscored its South-east Asian opponents 29-21 in the first quarter.

India outscored Thailand by 14 points in the first half, while Thailand managed to score 50 points to India’s 43 in the second half. India’s clear advantage in this match was the fact that it managed to grab 45 rebounds compared to Thailand’s 31.

At 6ft 6 inch, Vishal was a huge part of that, finishing with a double-double of 16 points and 14 rebounds. The UP centre also registered 3 blocked shots.

Apart from Vishal, India predictably utilised talented playmaker Baladaneshwar’s all-round game. The Indian captain was everywhere, scoring at ease (21 pts), grabbing rebounds, making assists (5 each), getting steals and blocking shots (1 each). Rounding off the big three was Haryana shooting guard Sahil, who lived up to his position, knocking down five three pointers to end with a team high 25 points.

Not to be outdone, the supporting cast of Hariram Raghupati (17 pts & 6 rbs) and Muhammad Ali (15 pts) kept India’s scoreboard ticking in the second half, to ensure that the fighting Thailand stayed at least three possessions behind India throughout the game.

The results:

India 100 (Sahil 25, P. Baladheshwar 21) bt Thailand 93 (Justin Bassey 20).

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