The Tall Blacks have fallen 76-85 to defending champions Australia in the semi-finals of the FIBA Asia Cup tonight, in a tense battle that was closer in the final minutes than the final score suggests.
After going into the half down by eight, the Kiwis mounted a comeback in the fourth quarter thanks to the play of Sam Timmins and Kruz Perrott-Hunt, before a flurry of Aussie threes sank New Zealand’s hope of a place in the grand final.
New Zealand were led by 16 points (including 10 in the fourth) and 8 rebounds from Sam Timmins, along with 16 points and 3 blocks from Jordan Hunt (4-4 from downtown), 15 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists from Flynn Cameron and 11 from Perrott-Hunt. Taine Murray was held scoreless by the stingy Aussie defence in this one, while Taki Fahrensohn was limited to 4 points on 2/8 shooting (0/5 from outside).
Australia was paced by Thon Maker with 18 points and 9 rebounds, while point guard William McDowell-White has 15 points and 7 assists and Mitchell McCarron tallied 13 and 7.
Australia struck first in the game on a layup by Sam Froling, but Flynn replied from outside the arc; a dunk from Timmins putting the Kiwis up 5-2 early. Both teams were held to 25% shooting in the first four minutes of the game, as they tested each other out.
Back-to-back buckets from Australia’s star centre Maker soon gave them a lead they wouldn’t relinquish for the rest of the quarter. The period ended with Hunt – the stand-out Kiwi player in the first with 8 points and 3 rebounds – nailing a triple at the buzzer to narrow the Aussies lead to 19-23.
The second quarter saw Australia employ a stifling full court defence that forced the Tall Blacks into multiple turnovers – the Aussies using this to go on a 9-0 scoring run and build a 37-26 lead mid-way through the period. That became a 49-37 lead for Australia going into the half, on the strength of their shooting (50% vs 39% for NZ) and by holding a 23-17 rebounding advantage; turning their 5 offensive rebounds into 11 second chance points, while also shooting 7/17 from beyond the arc.
In addition to Cameron’s 10 points, Hunt helped keep the Kiwis in this game with his 11 points (3-3 from downtown) and 4 rebounds, while Australia’s Mitchell McCarron had 11 for Australia and Sam Froling registered 7 points and 5 rebounds.
Both teams started cold to open the third quarter. Australia make the first bucket after two and a half minutes had gone by, before New Zealand made a thrilling run to cut the lead to six – beginning with a triple from Perrot-Hunt and a driving layup from Hunt, and culminating in a Smith-Milner three; the Kiwis hitting 3-5 from outside to start the quarter.
Maker soon went on a personal 7-0 run at the three minute mark, including a triple and a dunk to build Australia’s lead back to 10. That lead would extend to 14 after Australia’s suffocating defence forced a trio of Kiwi turnovers, which the Aussies were able to capitalise on for easy scores. They’d carry a 66-54 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The final period saw Timmins rising to the occasion for New Zealand – the big centre scoring 8 straight points from inside on a variety of moves, with Cameron finding him twice with excellent feeds, to narrow the gap to 4 points with 4 minutes left to play.
Down by 6, a four-point play cut by Perrot-Hunt cut the deficit to 2 for New Zealand. But huge triples by Maker and Mcdowall-White extended the lead back to 8 with 2 and a half minutes left, before a Smith-Milner triple bought it back to 5. A costly turnover gave Australia possession, forcing the Kiwis to foul – the Aussies holding on for a 9-point win and a place in the Asia Cup grand final tomorrow.
The Tall Blacks will still have a chance to medal at this Asia Cup, when they take on either Jordan or Lebanon tomorrow night at 10.30pm NZT in a battle for 3rd place.
New Zealand 76 – Timmins 16PTS & 8REB | Hunt 16PTS & 3BLK | Cameron 15PTS & 7REB & 4AST | Perrott-Hunt 11PTS | Smith-Milner 8PTS & 7REB | Britt 6PTS | Fahrensohn 4PTS
Australia 85 – Maker 18PTS & 9REB | McDowell-White 15PTS & 7AST | McCarron 13PTS & 7AST | Proctor 13PTS | Pinder 11PTS & 6REB
Quarter scores: 26-23, 37-49, 54-66, 76-85.
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 TBC, 10.30pm NZT, Sun 24 July
Tall Blacks Squad – FIBA Asia Cup 2022
Flynn Cameron, Riverside California (7 caps)
Isaac Davidson, NZ Breakers / Franklin Bulls (6 caps)
Jordan Hunt, Hawkes Bay Hawks (7 caps)
Kane Keil, Franklin Bulls (3 caps)
Kruz Perrott-Hunt, University of South Dakota (8 caps)
Max Darling, Canterbury Rams (2 caps)
Sam Mennenga, Davidson College (4 caps)
Sam Timmins, NZ Breakers / Otago Nuggets (18 caps)
Taine Murray, University of Virginia (9 caps)
Taki Fahrensohn, Auckland Tuatara (9 caps)
Taylor Britt, Canterbury Rams (10 caps)
Tohi Smith-Milner, Sandringham Sabres (45 caps)