AMMAN (Jordan) & BEIRUT (Lebanon)
The two favorites of Group C in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers, Jordan and Lebanon, handled their business in their opening games of the campaign.
Jordan were the first team to claim a victory in Group C, though the win did not come along easily for the home side. They led for only 7 and a half minutes against Saudi Arabia, but the most important part if that they led at the final buzzer, 68-61.
World Cup Qualifiers debutants Saudi Arabia made a promising start to their campaign, coming out of the locker room with intense energy. Their quick-tempo style of play was big part of why Saudia Arabia held a lead as big as 13 points in the first half.
However, Jordan got more comfortable getting back into action as time passed by. They slowly chipped away at the lead until Mousa Alawadi knocked down a jumper early in the fourth quarter to give Jordan their first lead in the second half.
Saudi Arabia reclaimed the lead one minute later, sparking an 8-1 run to give themselves an 6 points lead with just over 5 minutes to go in the game.
Just as it seemed as if Saudi Arabia had taken control of the game, Jordan came back to life. A fast break layup by Amin Abu Hawwas ignited an explosive 15-0 run to give Jordan the lead for good, leading Saudi Arabia in a daze.
Clutch-shooting Alawadi led Jordan with 16 points on three three-pointers, through three other players reached double-digit scoring as well. Sami Bzai was among one of those scorers and aside from scoring 12 points, he also recorded 4 rebounds, 4 assists, and an eye-popping 5 steals.
The visitors, Saudi Arabia put on an impressive effort with nearly all players getting involved. Those that stood out were Khalid Abdel Gabbar who had 13 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals along with Mohammed Alsuwailem who had a double-double of 10 points and 12 rebounds.
The two teams will face each other again on 29 November at 6:30 PM (GMT +3) with the venue switching to be in Jeddah at the King Abdullah Sports City.
Lebanon, on the other hand, took care of business with much more ease in a 96-38 win over Indonesia. They took control of the game right from the opening minutes and never let go.
Sergio El Darwich led the team in scoring with 17 points and Wael Arakji ended up with a double-double, but the buzz revolved around their talented teenage, Yousef hayat.
The 18-year-old seized the opportunity of making his senior national team debut to put up 12 points, leading the fans in the crowd to chant his name.
Indonesia will get another chance to play against Lebanon when the two teams face again on 29 November at 4:00 PM (GMT +2).