Beirut (Lebanon), Tuesday, 15 th November 2022: Early on Monday morning, India lost 74-103 to current Group toppers Lebanon in the ongoing Asian Qualifiers, to formally bow of contention for a spot in the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
India is now 0-8 in these Qualifiers, with two final window games in February 2023 remaining.
Both in the previous game in this window against Saudi Arabia, and versus Lebanon, India showed impressive stretches of play on either side of the ball. But invariably, such purple patches were followed by mental lapses allowing the opponents to build back double digit leads.
Against Lebanon, India did well to close the first quarter at 20-27, but trailed at the half 36-49.
Classy point guard Muin Bek Hafeez finally got his offensive game going, leading India with 16 points and 7 assists.
But India had no answers to the size and strength of seasoned Lebanon centre Ali Haider. Haider was able to repeatedly bully his way into the paint, brooking little to no resistance from his smaller, skinnier and younger front court rivals.
Lebanon maintained their level of play in the second half, winning each of the final two quarters as well, for the decisive 29 point win.
Turnovers continue to haunt
For the second straight game in this window, India struggled to control the ball, turning it over 28 times against Lebanon’s 13. While Lebanon’s defensive pressure definitely played a part in forcing India’s giveaways, the young Indian backcourt’s inexperience – with an average age of 21.2 – was on full display.
Lebanon was able to capitalize on India’s largesse, with 89 field goal tries against just 58 for India. India, in fact, shot better from the field, but Lebanon’s higher shot attempts coupled with timely threes, allowed them to steadily grow their lead through four quarters.
On the plus side, India Head Coach Veselin Matic will be impressed with the performance of 17-year-old shooting guard Harsh Dagar, especially on the defensive end. Despite being just 6ft 2’’, Dagar put his body on the line to draw two charges against taller opponents – something we rarely see Indian players do.
Matic will also be pleased with the renewed intent of 28-year-old centre Palpreet Singh, who, in the past, has often been in and out of the line up due to his mercurial nature.
India’s sixth and final window of action will be staged in February 2023, with games against Jordan (24 th February) and Saudi Arabia (27 th February).
India (Muin Bek Hafeez 16 pts & 7 ast, Palpreet Singh 12 pts) lose to Lebanon (Ali Haider 27 pts, Jean Marc Jarrouj 18 pts, Jad Khalil 15 pts & 9 ast) 74-103 [20-27, 16-22, 21-28, 17-26].