By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

FOLLOWING a rough start to its 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup bid on Saturday, the Philippine men’s national basketball team looks to find some form of redemption and bounce back when it plays Serbia in Group D action today in Foshan, China.

Bamboozled by 46 points, 108-62, in its opening game in the global hoops spectacle by Italy, Gilas Pilipinas seeks to perform better when it treks back to the Foshan International Sports & Cultural Arena in its 7:30 p.m. game against world number four Serbia.

Against a hot-shooting Italian squad, led by National Basketball Association players Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli, Gilas found the going tough right at the onset.

Luigi Datome got Italy to a strong start, helping his team to a 16-4 in the first five minutes of the contest.

The Azzurri then jacked up their game some more, outscoring the Filipinos, 21-4, to take a commanding 37-8 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Italy kept taking it to Gilas in the second quarter, with the Philippine squad not helping its cause by shooting blanks especially from the outside.

The score was at 48-12 at the 5:40 mark of the frame before Italy closed out the opening half with a 62-24 lead.

While the game was practically out of reach at that point, Gilas still showed some fight in the second half, particularly young guns CJ Perez and Robert Bolick who tried to make things happen for the team on both ends.

But Italy was simply not to be stopped as it made its way to the big win.

Mr. Datome led the Azzurri with 17 points, going seven-of-seven from the field, with Amedeo Della Valle finishing with the same total points.

Mr. Gallinari had 16 while Mr. Belinelli had nine markers in the win.

As a team, Italy shot a solid 58.2% from the floor, and 48.4% from beyond the arc. It also had 30 assists.

For the Philippines, naturalized player Andray Blatche and Mr. Perez finished with 15 points each, followed by June Mar Fajardo with nine points.

Collectively Gilas just shot 39.1% from the field and a dismal 13% from three-point land. The team also had a telling 23 turnovers.

After the game, Gilas acknowledged that the game was hard to swallow because it was not able to meet its expectations and failed to deliver.

But it said the lessons from the Italy game were clear and that it hopes to do better versus Serbia.

“There will be nights like this. Just the experience of being out here — that’s one positive thing. Moving on to the next games is important. We have to think of the next game after that. It’s all about experience,” said Gilas guard Kiefer Ravena, who finished with five points, after the game.

Serbia, for its part, was a 105-62 winner over Angola in its debut also on Saturday.

NBA player Bogdan Bogdanovic was the high point man for Serbia in the win with 24 points followed by Denver Nuggets All-Star Nikola Jokic and Nikola Milutinov with 14 apiece.

Another NBA player Boban Marjanovic had a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.