FIBA World Cup qualifiers: India goes down to Lebanon

An off-colour India succumbed to a 50-90 defeat at Lebanon’s hands in the Asian qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup on Monday.

Lebanon's Amir Saoud (5) and Wael Arakji (7) celebrate after winning the fixture against India in Bengaluru on Monday.   -  K. Murali Kumar

An off-colour India succumbed to a 50-90 defeat at Lebanon’s hands in the Asian qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup here on Monday.

Lebanon was simply quicker, sharper and more efficient than the home side, with shooting guard Amir Saoud (16 points, 5 assists) and the lively point guard Wael Arakji (13, 6) in fine form. India had played with purpose and intensity against Jordan two days before at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium but enjoyed little luck on this occasion. Still at the bottom of Group C, India will now have to win its two remaining games to have any chance of advancing to the second round.

Disappointingly for head coach Rajinder Singh, his men repeated some of their mistakes from Friday. Having stayed within touching distance in the first quarter (16-22), India simply conceded too many cheap turnovers thereafter.

In all, Lebanon scored 20 points from turnovers, against India's five. The Lebanese centres Charles Tabet and Ater Majok turned in excellent defensive performances, allowing the opposition no easy shots. At the other end, Bassel Bawji (16 points) was deadly accurate with his shooting (making 7 out of 10 shots), punishing India every time it erred. Arakji and Saoud ran the show, their speed and guile leaving the host gasping for breath.

In contrast, India's own offensive game appeared sloppy and turgid.

Captain Satnam Singh (12 points) often cut a frustrated figure; he did not enjoy the freedom he had against Jordan, and struggled to impose himself. India was poor in the paint, scoring only 22 points, as against the 52 it had managed against Jordan.

“I don't know how Jordan defended but our idea was to protect the paint; we could not afford to let them score from the inside,” said the Lebanese coach Patrick Khouri Saba afterwards.

“We missed our main point guard Akilan Pari and that had an effect,” said Rajinder Singh, India's head coach. “We didn't shoot well from the outside. Lebanon played a very aggressive defence.”

Aravind Annadurai admitted that India had been sloppy. “We missed easy baskets,” he said. “We missed a lot of rebounds too.” It was plain to see.

The result: India 50 (Joginder Singh 14, Satnam Singh 12) lost to Lebanon 90 (Ater Majok 17, Amir Saoud 16, Bassel Bawji 16, Wael Arakji 13).