June 14th: China’s young “second team” goes down to Japan in East Asian Championship semi-finals
Coming off of a solid win against South Korea on June 12th in the last game of the group stage, young Team China entered their semi-finals game last Tuesday against Japan with a marquee win over one of their biggest Asian rivals. Knowing that a rematch in the Finals was all but assured after the Koreans beat China Taipei in the game before, the Chinese knew that their toughest work still lay ahead of them.
If only they knew.
Forcing the Chinese into 17 second-half turnovers, Japan spoiled any thoughts of a China-Korea Round Two as they stormed back from a 12 point halftime deficit to upset the hosts 72-62 in Nanjing. Though the loss is a bitter disappointment for the Chinese, their failure to win won’t have any effect on their qualification for the FIBA Asia Championship in September. As the host nation, China has already received an automatic bid and will be assured the chance to play in the official Asian qualifying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics.
Kenta Hirose, Shinsuke Kashigawi and Kosuke Takeuchi all scored 13 points to lead the Japenese. “Max” Zhang Zhaoxu led the Chinese with 16 points. The Chinese Second Team hasn’t beat Japan in six years, dating back to when they lost to the Japanese in the 2005 East Asia Games semi-finals.
Yu Shulong, Meng Duo, Yi Li, Dong Hanlin and Su Wei started for Team China, but with the Chinese’s spot in the FIBA Asia Championship locked up as the host nation, substitute head coach Li Nan subbed in and out freely in order to give all players ample time to showcase their ability. Yu, Meng, Zhang Bo and Han Shuo interchanged throughout the first half in a three-guard attack, with China’s four-headed inside combo of Su, Dong, Zhang and Mo Ke doing the dirty work up front. Facilitating mostly out of the high-post, the Chinese offense looked decent at best and positively terrible at worst.
But, by the end of the first half, China’s huge size advantage up front translated into numerous offensive rebounds and putbacks. On the defensive side, the Japanese couldn’t get anything going in their offensive sets, and when it got late in the shot clock, the Japanese guards had trouble breaking down anybody off the dribble for clean looks. With their domination on the glass and solid defense, China went into the locker room up 38-24, despite turning the ball over nine times.
Coming out in the second half, Japan made a few key adjustments on both ends. Ramping up the effort on the defensive end, Japan swarmed China’s big men on the catch, sending two and sometimes three men into the post. Though all of China’s bigs struggled to do anything positive offensively in the second half, Su Wei stood out as the team’s worst performer. Looking equally inept at either scoring or passing, Su charged into defenders, lost the ball in traffic, threw the ball away and got his shot blocked en route to six turnovers.
It didn’t get much better for China’s guards. Meng coughed up the rock seven times, most of which came as a result of forcing reckless drives into traffic. Yu, who threw a couple of loopy passes that were picked off and converted into points on the other end, didn’t fare much better, finishing with four himself.
When Japan wasn’t racing out in transition off turnovers, they were calmly executing in their half court offense off of dribble penetration and ball screens. Confounded by Japan’s steady second half diet of pick-and-rolls, the Chinese allowed their opponents easy access into the lane for simple lay-ups or kick outs. Japan purposely picked on the immobile Su and Zhang on pick-and-rolls, and with the plodding duo slow to both show out and recover, Hirose and Kashigawi ran amok as China’s helpside defense refused to make even the most basic rotations.
Though the loss is disappointing, its key to remember that this was not even close to China’s best team. Bob Donewald was back in Beijing with the team’s best players preparing for China’s trip to Australia, so this was a chance for China’s young and inexperienced players to pick up some game action. But, don’t try telling that to Chinese fans. On a poll after the game on Sina.com, 76% of voters said the game was “a dissapointment, there’s no way they should have lost.”
June 16th: Before team heads off to Australia, Donewald trims National Team roster to 20
Forced to do another round of cuts in the days prior to China leaving for a an exhibition series in Australia, Bob Donewald released seven players from National Team duty.
Liu Ziqiu, Peng Fei, Duan Jiangpeng, Han Shuo, Zhang Kai, Dong Hanlin and Zhang Sontao were all axed. Yao Ming, despite publicly contemplating retirement, remains on the roster.
The remaining players:
Guards: Wang Shipeng (王仕鹏), Zhang Bo (张博), Liu Wei (刘炜), Zhang Qingpeng (张庆鹏), Xirelijiang (西热力江), Meng Duo (孟铎), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Yu Shulong (于澍龙)
Forwards: Sun Yue (孙悦), Zhou Peng (周鹏), Zhu Fangyu (朱芳雨), Wang Lei (王磊), Ding Jinhui (丁锦辉), Yi Li (易立)
Centers: Mo Ke (莫科), Su Wei (苏伟), Wang Zhizhi (王治郅), Zhang Zhaoxu (张兆旭), Yi Jianlian (易建联), Yao Ming (姚明)
All except Yao, Yi, Guo and Meng went on the trip. Yao is injured, Yi is back in the States training privately, and Guo is with the U-19 National Team preparing for the FIBA U-19 Championship. Meng did not make the trip for undisclosed reasons.
China beat Austrailian professional club team, the Perth Wildcats, on Wednesday and will play the Australian National Team tonight. The two teams will play again on Sunday in Singapore.
June 20th: CBA announces roster for FIBA U-19 World Championship
With the FIBA U-19 World Championship set to tip off in Latvia on June 30th, the CBA announced the official roster for the tournament.
Guards: Wang Zirui (王子瑞), Guo Ailun (郭艾伦), Luo Hanshen (罗汉琛)
Forwards: Zhai Xiaochuan (翟晓川), Gu Quan (顾全), Ju Mingxin (鞠明欣), Wang Pu (王璞), Zhu Xuhang (朱旭航), Sun Tonglin (孙桐林)
Centers: Xu Tao (徐韬), Wang Zhenglin (王哲林), Li Muhao (李慕豪)
China has been drawn in Group D with U.S.A., Egypt and Serbia.
This is considered to be one of the best U-19 teams China has ever fielded. Beyond Guo, who should be one of the better players in the tournament, China also boasts Li Muhao, Gu Quan and Zhai Xiaochuan among a roster that is expected to at the very least make it out of the group stages.