In a game defined by both teams as ‘must-win’, the Tall Blacks take on Jordan tonight in their second game of the FIBA World Cup 2023.
With wins needed in each of the next two games to progress to the Second Round, the Tall Blacks come into this matchup knowing they need to play at a high level – a level they showcased in the first half of their 72-99 loss to the United States on Saturday.
Tall Blacks forward Jordan Ngatai says that despite the loss, the team can take multiple positives away from their last game.
“We’ve got a lot of takeaways from that game against the United States that we can apply to this next game against Jordan; a lot of good moments that I believe we can carry over to this one to be successful,” says Ngatai.
Taking on the World number 2-ranked Americans, the Kiwis set an impressive tone early; showcasing a strong running and shooting game in the first half, with Reuben Te Rangi racking up 11 of his 15 points by midway through the second period. Three other Tall Blacks reached double figures in Shea Ili, Yanni Wetzell and Finn Delany, with solid contributions off the bench by Izayah Le’afa (9 points), Flynn Cameron and Isaac Fotu.
Also coming off a Saturday night loss – theirs a 71-92 decision versus Greece – Jordan are as focussed on a win tonight as the Kiwis will be.
With Dar Tucker absent from the 2023 World Cup, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the unquestioned star of this Jordan squad – as the naturalized 28-year-old, who spent six productive seasons in the NBA – demonstrated against Greece. He scored a game-high 24 points and 9 rebounds, shooting 7-11 from the floor while getting to the line 11 times (making 9).
He received help from his Jordan teammates too in the form of Ahmad Dwairi’s 14 points and 9 rebounds, Sami Bzai’s 11 and 10 points plus 6 assists from point guard Freddy Ibrahim.
Ngatai feels that despite not having Tucker – their leading scorer at the 2019 World Cup – on hand, this Jordan squad is not to be taken lightly.
“They have a veteran captain in [39-year-old Zaid] Abbas, and they’ve got a talented naturalized player in [Rondae] Hollis-Jefferson as well, that we’ve got to lock into and contain. But if we play our style of game, we should be good.”
The Kiwis have recent history with Jordan that is sure to make this encounter a bidding rivalry; with three games previously played between these two countries within the past 13 months.
Their first meeting came in July 2022, in the bronze medal game of the FIBA Asia Cup. That clash saw the Tall Blacks erased a 15-point third quarter deficit to beat Jordan 83-75 and earn their first ever Asia Cup podium finish, thanks to the heroics of Tohi Smith-Milner and his 25 points.
The following month Jordan travelled to New Zealand to face the Tall Blacks in a World Cup Qualifier game in Auckland; the Kiwis winning 100-72 thanks to 16 points from Ili and 13 from Cameron. Jordan had their revenge two months later however, in a follow-up World Cup Qualifier clash – this time in the Middle East – which saw the Kiwis fall 75-92 thanks to a 31-point outing from Tucker.
Ngatai says that despite these past games and the team’s familiarity with each other, the ‘board is reset’ when it comes to both squads in the FIBA World Cup.
“From the [World Cup Qualifier] windows to now, we’re both two very different teams, and the World Cup is just a whole different level. They’re a very experienced squad, but with the team we have now I’m truly confident that it’ll be our game for the taking.
“None of us like to lose, we were a very young squad in that loss to Jordan [in September 2022] with a lot of debutantes and a couple of veterans like myself mixed into the group. But I do think that loss will play in the back of our minds a little heading into this one.”
The Tall Blacks take on Jordan in Group Play at a fan-friendly time of 8.45pm NZT on Monday night, in their second game of the FIBA Basketball World Cup. Watch all games live and free at TVNZ+ and Duke.
Find out more about the FIBA World Cup at www.fiba.basketball/basketballworldcup/2023
Tall Blacks 1st Round Schedule – FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup
New Zealand vs USA – Sunday 27 August, 12.40am NZT (lost 72-99)
New Zealand vs Jordan – Monday 28 August, 8.45pm NZT
New Zealand vs Greece – Thursday 31 August, 12.40am NZT
Tall Blacks Squad vs USA, FIBA Men’s Basketball World Cup 2023
Finn Delany, Telekom Baskets Bonn / NZ Breakers
Flynn Cameron, Melbourne United
Hyrum Harris, Hawkes Bay Hawks / Perth Wildcats
Isaac Fotu, Utsunomiya Brex
Izayah Le’Afa, Wellington Saints / NZ Breakers
Jordan Ngatai, Hawkes Bay Hawks
Reuben Te Rangi, Auckland Tuatara / S.E. Melbourne Phoenix
Shea Ili, Melbourne United
Taylor Britt, Canterbury Rams
Tohi Smith-Milner, Wellington Saints / Adelaide 36ers
Walter Brown, Canterbury Rams / Tasmania Jackjumpers
Yanni Wetzell, Alba Berlin
Jordan Squad vs New Zealand
Amin Abu Hawwas
Rondae Hollis Jefferson