By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
HAD it rough in group play in the ongoing FIBA Basketball World Cup in China where it finished winless in Group D, Gilas Pilipinas now looks to catch a break in the classification round beginning with Tunisia today.
Playing at the Beijing Wukesong Sport Arena at 8 p.m., Gilas will try to finish as high as it can in the classification for places 17-32 to at least ease the sting of what has been a “nightmare” of a campaign to date in the world basketball spectacle.
The Philippines opened their bid by being routed mightily in its first two games by Italy and Serbia, in that order, by an average margin of 52.5 points.
Its misery continued on Wednesday when it lost to Angola, 84-81, in overtime in its last game in group play, leaving it winless in three matches and bottom of its grouping, behind Serbia (3-0), Italy (2-1) and Angola (1-2).
“Still disappointed but at least we had a chance to win the game. Still kinda frustrating because we can’t make our three-point shots. Still not enough for us to win and we had some bad breaks…” said Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao after finishing their group play assignment.
As a team, the Philippines is just shooting 36.2%, 30th in the 32-team field, and a measly 18.3% from the beyond the arc (31st).
It is the second-most turnover-prone team in the tournament with 16.3 per contest, behind only Jordan with 19 TOs while it is 29th in assists with 13.3 dimes.
Guard CJ Perez has been a revelation for Gilas in his first big tournament with the seniors, leading the team in scoring with 16 points per game to go along with three rebounds, three assists and a steal.
Naturalized player Andray Blatche has struggled with numbers of 14.3 points, 8.7 rebounds and five turnovers per game. He, however, played his best game so far last time versus Angola, finishing with 23 points and 12 rebounds.
Robert Bolick is the third leading scorer of the team with a 7.7-point average.
Meanwhile, Gilas’ opponent Tunisia finished third in Group C with a 1-2 record.
Its losses came at the hands of Spain and Puerto Rico, leaving it missing the cut to move to the next round of the tournament.
The Puerto Rico loss, 67-64, on Wednesday was telling as it dropped the axe on its push to go deeper.
Leading the way for Tunisia is big man Salah Mejri, who plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the National Basketball Association, with team-highs of 17 points and 10.3 rebounds per game.
Michael Roll has been good for 12.3 points with Makram Ben Romdhane adding 11.7 points.
The Philippines-Tunisia game will be shown live over TV5 and ESPN5.com.