Indian basketball team falls 80-61 to Saudi Arabia in FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers

India now face a must-win clash against Palestine on Saturday to qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup next year.

By Rahul Venkat
Picture by FIBA Media

The Indian basketball team was beaten 80-61 by Saudi Arabia in Group H of the final round qualifiers for the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on Friday.

India now have to beat Palestine in their second and final Group H game on Saturday to have a chance of playing in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021, which will be held in Jakarta, Indonesia, in July 2022. The main event was postponed from this year to the next due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Indian basketball team were the first to score, as Amjyot Singh Gill set up Amritpal Singh for a two-pointer.

Both teams were poor in attack early in the first quarter, missing several buckets. Saudi Arabia - buoyed by the home support - hit back through Mohammed Almarwani, Fahad Belal and Mohammed Alsuwailem to surge into an 8-2 lead.

Indian captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi and Amjyot Singh Gill then dunked a jump shot and a layup to make it eight points for India. However, Saudi Arabia continued to score regularly and led 20-8 by the end of the first quarter.

India were much more incisive in the second quarter, with Muin Bek Hafeez and Joginder Singh scoring early three-pointers to set the tone.

Despite the best efforts of Ali Shubayli and Fahad Belal, Saudi Arabia were kept largely at bay in the second quarter. India’s Sahaij Pratap Singh Sekhon had a big impact off the bench, as he helped India claw the score back to 30-36 at half-time.

Three-pointers from Joginder Singh and Sahaij Sekhon early in the third quarter helped India reduce the deficit but Saudi Arabia soon got into their groove and carried a 56-46 lead going into the final quarter.

India’s tempo slowed down in the fourth quarter as Bhriguvanshi and Co. failed to make any inroads. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, sustained their offence well to cruise to a resounding victory.