The Indian men’s basketball team put up a valiant effort in their final Group E match of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers against Saudi Arabia but lost the contest 71-60 at the Sree Kanteerava Indoor Stadium in Bengaluru on Monday.
The defeat meant that India ended their qualifying campaign without winning a game in 14 matches. In the first round of qualifiers, Indian hoopsters were placed in Group A with New Zealand, the Philippines and South Korea.
The Indian men’s basketball team lost two matches each against New Zealand and the Philippines but were awarded four points and moved to the next round after South Korea, the other team in the group, pulled out due to COVID-19 and was disqualified.
In the second round, India, placed in Group E, lost two matches each against New Zealand, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon and Jordan.
New Zealand, Lebanon, Philippines and Jordan, the top four teams in the group, made the cut for the World Cup from Group E while Saudi Arabia and India missed out.
On Monday, India, 83rd in the FIBA basketball rankings, made a positive start and led Saudi Arabia 19-16 at the end of the first quarter. Arvind Kumar and Muin Bek Hafeez made the most of the opportunities for India.
India’s narrow lead, however, disappeared in the second quarter as Saudi Arabia, ranked 12 places above India, upped the ante to go up 37-33.
There was nothing to separate India and Saudi Arabia in the third quarter as both sides went toe-to-toe and shared phases of possession. India did manage to wrestle back the lead in the second half with six minutes left for the final buzzer.
However, as India led 54-53, a foul by Arvind Kumar gave Saudi Arabia two free throws and shifted the momentum back in favour of the visitors. Saudi Arabia then cruised to win with a comfortable 11-point margin.
While Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed Alsuwailem, with 27 points, was the top-scorer in the match, Arvind Kumar, who netted 19 points against Jordan on Friday, top-scored for India with 24 points.
The rest of the qualification spots from the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers were claimed by Japan, Iran, Australia, China. The 32-team FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 will be co-hosted by the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia from August 25 to September 10.
India have never qualified for the main draw of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.