The Tall Blacks have suffered a second loss in as many games in the Middle East, falling 75-92 to an efficient Jordan in New Zealand’s final World Cup Qualifier (WCQ) game of the year.

With the scores tied at the end of the first half, Jordan caught fire in the second frame while fatigue set in for New Zealand; the Kiwis with 10 second-half turnovers and 3-14 shooting from outside, while also losing the rebounding battle 33-38 – giving up 11 offensive boards to the taller Jordanian big men. The Tall Blacks were also hampered by foul trouble for much of the game, as evidenced by the 21-7 free throw discrepancy in favour of the physically imposing Jordan side.

Dar Tucker was a difference-maker with 31 points (6-10 from downtown), with the undersized Kiwis unable to contain Ahmad Al Dwairi who racked up 22 points & 12 rebounds. Guard Freddy Ibrahim also had a strong game for Jordan with 9 points and 14 assists.

Tohi Smith-Milner again led the Kiwis with 17 points, while Hyrum Harris had a solid 15 points, 7 rebounds & 4 assists; Ethan Rusbatch with 14 (including 4 triples) and Taylor Britt tallying 12 points & 6 assists. Jordan Hunt and Alex McNaught also contributed 6 apiece off the bench.

The game start promisingly enough for both teams; a back-and-forth affair that saw Jordan leading 27-23 after the first, but the Kiwis buoyed by an improved shooting effort – hitting 5-10 from outside in the first frame.

New Zealand opened up a lead in the second quarter, an 8-0 scoring run capped off by a Smith-Milner dunk on a fast break – veteran Smith-Milner impressing with 13 first half points, supported by Harris’ 7 and 6 from Britt. Jordan clawed back into the game thanks to Tucker (15 points on 6-8 shooting), with scores tied at 41 all heading into the second half.

The Kiwis built a 5-point lead midway through the third, thanks to a turnaround jumper from McNaught. But the momentum turned in Jordan’s favour shortly afterwards; the home team going on an impressive 17-0 run to build an 11-point lead with 50 seconds left, with the Kiwis guilty of unforced turnovers and poor shooting during this stretch.

Despite the best efforts of Harris to start the fourth – the all-rounder attempting to kickstart his team with a putback dunk and a beautiful pass to Jordan Hunt for the and-1 – the Kiwis were unable to stave off Jordan’s final quarter run as the home side racked up 28 points; Tucker with 12 points in the fourth, including a pair of contested triples late to extend the final score.

Tall Blacks head coach, Pero Cameron says that the Kiwis were simply unable to halt Jordan’s momentum in the second half.

“I’m really disappointed in our third and fourth quarter, it was a tough first half and both teams played hard and physical,” says Cameron.

“We didn’t make the adjustments later in the game and I felt Tucker hit some really good shots down the stretch; [Al Dwairi] controlled the boards and we turned it over too much in a crucial time. So it’s tough to compete when things go that way in the third and fourth.”

The Tall Blacks will regroup in February 2023, when they play a pair of games back in New Zealand; versus Saudi Arabia in CHCH on Fri 24 February followed by a re-match with Lebanon in Wellington on Mon 27 February. More details to follow next month.



New Zealand 75 – Smith-Milner 17 PTS | Harris 15 PTS & 7 REB | Rusbatch 14 PTS & 5 REB | Britt 12 PTS & 6 AST | Hunt 6 PTS | McNaught 6 PTS & 4 AST | Ngatai 2 PTS | Fotu 3 PTS & 6 REB

Jordan 92 – Al Dwairi 22 PTS & 12 REB | Tucker 31 PTS & 8 REB | Bzai 17 PTS & 7 AST | Alhamarsheh 11 PTS & 7 REB | Ibrahim 9 PTS & 14 AST

Quarter scores: 23-27, 41-41, 55-64, 75-92.

Full box score: