The Tall Blacks have erased a 15-point third quarter deficit to beat Jordan 83-75 this morning, using a remarkable fourth quarter comeback to earn themselves a bronze medal at the FIBA Asia Cup – their first ever podium finish at this event.
Tohi Smith-Milner was the hero in this game, scoring 25 points on 7/10 shooting from outside, including 14 points in a pivotal fourth quarter flurry in what will go down as one of the most memorable Tall Blacks comebacks in recent history.
He was supported by Taki Fahrensohn with 19 points, Sam Timmins with 12 points and 5 rebounds, Taylor Britt with 8 points and 7 assists, Jordan Hunt with 7 & 10, and Flynn Cameron with 7 points and 7 assists.
Jordan were led by 19 points apiece from Amin Abu Hawwas and Hashem Abbaas, along with 15 points and 9 rebounds from 38-year-old forward Zaid Abbas. Freddy Ibrahim also had 12 points, 8 assists and 4 steals in Jordan’s loss.
The first quarter opened with both teams matching each other bucket for bucket; Smith-Milner hitting a triple and then Fahrensohn flushing home a one-handed dunk on the break.
While Timmins quietly operated in the paint with a pair of baskets, Jordan’s outside shooting began to make waves – shooting 4/4 from downtown in the first five minutes. That was good enough to give Jordan the early advantage, with Smith-Milner’s triple cutting their lead to 22-20 at the end of the first period.
Both teams went cold in the second quarter, with Fahrensohn’s layup the first basket for either side after almost 4 minutes of play. Jordan’s lead grew thanks to their continued hot shooting from outside, with a pair of threes building their lead to 10 points at half-time. The Kiwi big men also noticeably struggling to defend Jordan’s quicker guards.
Jordan’s 42-32 half-time lead was built around both their great shooting and solid defence; the latter holding New Zealand to 4-19 (21%) shooting from beyond the arc and 38% overall. They themselves shot 8-17 from outside, with Hawwas nailing 3-4 from downtown for his 14 first-half points.
The Tall Blacks were led by Smith-Milner with 11 points – despite being hampered with 3 first-half fouls – and Timmins with 8 points on a perfect 4-4 shooting. Tall Black’s leading scorer in this Asia Cup, Flynn Cameron, was held scoreless but had 4 assists in his 8 minutes of action.
New Zealand would try to chip away at Jordan’s lead in the third, with Hunt’s corner triple cutting the deficit to 7 midway through the third. But a jumper, followed by a triple from Abbas gave Jordan a 66-51 lead with just under two minutes left – Perrot-Hunt and Taylor able to again trim that lead back down to 7 heading into the fourth quarter.
And the fourth quarter would belong to Smith-Milner, who put in a performance for the ages despite being saddled with 4 fouls for much of the period. After a Smith-Milner three and a pair of buckets from Fahrensohn helped to tie the game at 66-all, the captain would catch fire from outside – draining a triple on three consecutive possessions over 90 seconds, fuelling a personal 9-0 run to give New Zealand a 75-68 lead with 4 minutes to play.
Fahrensohn would follow with a baseline dunk, and New Zealand held on over the last 4 minutes – despite some shaky free throw shooting down the stretch – to claim a 83-75 win and a third-place finish in the FIBA Asia Cup.
This is New Zealand’s first ever medal in this tournament, a remarkable feat for the youngest team to make it into the semi-final round in 2022. And Smith-Milner’s performance earned him a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup 2022 All-Star Five, joining Lebanon’s Wael Arakji, Thon Maker and Mitch McCarron from champions Australia, and Zhou Qi from China.
New Zealand 96 – Smith-Milner 25PTS | Fahrensohn 19PTS | Timmins 12PTS & 5REB | Britt 8PTS & 7AST | Hunt 7PTS & 10REB | Cameron 6PTS & 7REB | Perrott-Hunt 3PTS | Davidson 3PTS
Jordan 85 – Hawwas 19PTS | H. Abbaas 19PTS | Z. Abbas 15PTS & 9REB | Ibrahim 12PTS & 8ASS & 4STL
Quarter scores: 20-22, 32-40, 59-64, 83-75.
Full Stats here:
Tall Blacks Asia Cup Schedules (All Times NZT)
- Vs India, 4pm NZT Wed 13 July (W 100-47)
- Vs Lebanon, 1am NZT, Sat 16 July (L 72-86)
- Vs Philippines, 1am NZT, Mon 18 July (W 92-75)
- Vs Syria, 10.30pm NZT, Tue 19 July (W 97-58)
- Vs Korea, 1am NZT, Fri 22 July (W 88-78)
- Vs Australia, 10.30pm NZT, Sat 23 July (L 76-85)
- Vs Jordan, 10.30pm NZT, Sun 24 July (W 83-75)
Tall Blacks Squad – FIBA Asia Cup 2022
Flynn Cameron, Riverside California (8 caps)
Isaac Davidson, NZ Breakers / Franklin Bulls (7 caps)
Jordan Hunt, Hawkes Bay Hawks (8 caps)
Kane Keil, Franklin Bulls (3 caps)
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, University of South Dakota (9 caps)
Max Darling, Canterbury Rams (2 caps)
Sam Mennenga, Davidson College (4 caps)
Sam Timmins, NZ Breakers / Otago Nuggets (19 caps)
Taine Murray, University of Virginia (10 caps)
Taki Fahrensohn, Auckland Tuatara (10 caps)
Taylor Britt, Canterbury Rams (11 caps)
Tohi Smith-Milner, Sandringham Sabres (46 caps)