TEHRAN (Iran) & ASTANA (Kazakhstan) – The home teams, Iran and Kazakhstan, start their FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers campaigns with wins to the delight of their fans.
Iran were a bit rusty out of the gates, but eased into the win after outscoring Bahrain 28-14 on the way to a 82-66 win. Five players scored in double-digits for Team Melli, led by Mohammad Jamshidi who scored 21 points.
Another standout for Iran was Arsalan Kazemi. The forward filled the stat sheet with a triple-double of 10 points, 12 assists, and a whopping 26 rebounds in nearly 36 minutes of play. The 26 rebounds collected by Kazemi is the most ever in World Cup Qualifiers history among all regions, breaking the record of his teammate Hamed Haddadi who grabbed 20 boards on 22 February 2018.
Iran also celebrated the return of legendary floor general Mahdi Kamrani. The 39-year-old had not seen action on the national team for a long time, but ended up with 10 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steals.
Despite the loss, Bahrain put up a balanced effort with 8 players getting on the scoreboard led by the spirited performance of Ahmed Salman Ramadhan Haji’s 17 points.
Iran and Bahrain will now travel to Manama, Bahrain for their second game of this first window on 29 November at 7:00 PM (GMT +3).
Kazakhstan had a bit more trouble fending off Syria on their homecourt. The Steppen Wolves trailed for the early parts of the game up until the third quarter before taking the lead and running away with an 84-74 victory.
Balanced offense was the name of the game for Kazakhstan as they had 6 players score in double-digits in this game. Rustam Murzagaliyev totaled for 20 points, the most on the team, while also collecting 8 assists and 4 rebounds. The Steppen Wolves also got a solid performance from Nikolay Bazhin who posted a double-double of 13 points and 11 rebounds.
Syria were carried by the explosive debut of Amir Hinton, who wowed the fans immediately in the first quarter with acrobatic plays. The 24-year-old finished with 33 points and 10 rebounds on 8-23 shooting from the field.
Syria will get the chance for payback against Kazakhstan on 29 November at 6:00 PM (GMT +2). This will be a monumental moment for Syria basketball as the national team returns to play in a major FIBA event in Syria for the first time in a long while.