Originally published on 20 Sep, 2016 on Sportskeeda
The FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 concluded with India finishing 7th in the competition, their best performance in decades. India finished with a 4-4 record, but that doesn't reflect the gritty wins we pulled out against the tough competition. We also came really close to upsetting the eventual champions, Iran.
Of the four teams we beat, three were ranked higher and almost all had access to better facilities back home. Given that this tournament had 12 teams competing, India's position is the best over the last 27 years.
Here's a look at how team India fared in the competition, with the top performers in each match. Before that, let's take a look at the best numbers throughout the competition for India.
It should be noted that numbers rarely tell the full story. A player may perform exceptionally well without it being reflected in the box score. Boxing out, hustle plays, setting screens, playing tenacious defense, all these and more can sometimes be ignored on the stat sheet. Yadwinder Singh and Rikin Pethani are two of our players who didn't average double figures in scoring, but they made an impact with their performances regardless.
That being said, here's a look at how India stuffed the stat sheet, ranked by minutes played:
|Player name||Games played||Total points||PPG||Rank total points||Mpg||RPG||Apg||Blocks||Steals||Efficiency|
|4||Talwinderjit Singh Sahi||8||88||11||25||24.8||2.3||0.9||0.1||1.1||5.8|
|7||Rikin Shantilal Pethani||7||36||5.1||82||11.5||2.7||0.6||0.3||0.3||4.9|
|8||Prasanna Venkatesh Sivakumar||8||20||2.5||106||11.1||1||0.6||0.8||2.1|
|10||Arshpreet Singh Bhullar||7||5||0.7||130||6.7||3||0.1||0.3|
Vishesh Bhriguvanshi finished second among all players at the tournament in minutes played and fifth in assists per game. He also led all players in steals per game with 2.5 per contest. The runner-up in steals per game was Sunhyung Kim from Korea. Those are remarkable numbers considering the heavy minutes he shouldered.
Amritpal Singh finished fourth in rebounds per game and seventh in blocks per game. He was also eighth in efficiency among all players. Notably, Amritpal was second in the tournament with five double-doubles (getting double figures in any two statistical columns). Only 17 players got a double-double or more, and only seven of those got more than one double-double in the entire tournament.
India were coached by Mr. Sat Prakash Yadav. Here’s a look at the games India played in the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016:
India started the FIBA Asia Challenge with a strong win over the Philippines. Amjyot Singh had a seminal performance with 24 points and 18 rebounds. Vishesh Bhriguvanshi chipped in with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists. Amritpal Singh had 20 points as well, along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists. TJ Sahi added 15 points, 4 rebounds and 2 assists and Sivakumar had 10 points.
This was one of India's best shooting games, as we shot 53.2% from 2 point range. India also outrebounded Philippines 55-47. The transition game helped India as well, as 14 points were scored on the break. India also feasted down low, scoring 46 points in the paint.
But India also leaned heavily on its star players. Vishesh, Amritpal and Amjyot all played the entire game without being substituted.
In the second preliminary round game, India didn't fare too well. Vishesh had a dominant performance with 26 points, 2 rebounds and 2 assists. He played aggressively, getting to the line 10 times and converting all but one of those. Amritpal Singh added 14 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists. No other player from India scored in double digits.
We shot 25 of 72 from the field and had just 8 assists, while Chinese Taipei had 23 dimes. India were also outrebounded 53-34 in this contest. There was no answer to Chinese Taipei in the paint, as they scored 40 of their points down low. India only led for 55 seconds in this contest.
India's worst loss came at the hands of Jordan. Seven of the Jordan players scored in double figures, while three from India did the same. Amritpal Singh led the way with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks. Amjyot Singh had 13 points and 8 rebounds,
India were outrebounded 56-35, and Jordan had a whooping 29 assists to our 8 dimes. India led for 35 seconds in this contest. The three point line didn't help, as we made 4 of our 31 attempts from beyond the arc. It also didn't help that Jordan went 18 of 34 from beyond the arc, shooting 52.9% on threes.
This one was a nail-biter resulting in one of India's best wins in the competition. India were led by Amritpal Singh who had 23 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. Amjyot Singh chipped in with 16 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists. Vishesh put up 15 points, 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Yadwinder Singh added 6 points and 7 rebounds.
In spite of shooting just 1 of 17 from the three-point line, India eked out a win over the highly favoured Chinese squad. India outrebounded China 45-37 and both teams had 12 assists a piece. The game was a back and forth affair, with the outcome being in doubt throughout. China cut the lead down to 66-59 with 2:30 remaining in the game. A tip-in by China shrunk the lead to 66-61 with 1:03 remaining.
Rikin Pethani made a jumper after faking a pass from the elbow to extend the lead to 68-61, but it was far from over until Yadwinder Singh stepped up and added two points with 16 seconds left to seal the deal.
In the last Group match, India put on a dominant show, scoring its only triple digit total against Kazakhstan in this tournament. This match showed one of the best all round performances by our players. TJ Sahi went ballistic in this one with 32 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists in 31 minutes. He also shot 56% from the field in this one and went 4 of 9 from downtown.
India were shouldered by an all round performance by Amritpal Singh as he put in 28 points, 7 rebounds, and 2 assists, steals and blocks a piece. Vishesh added 13 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists, while Amjyot Singh narrowly missed out on a triple-double with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 8 assists.
India had 42 points in the paint, to 32 by the opponents. India also outrebounded Kazakhstan 46-30.
The quarter finals were a really close affair, and India were right in it up till half-time as they trailed 31-38. But a drought in the third quarter put this game out of reach as India scored just 2 points in the 3rd while absorbing 26 points.
For Iran, Hamed Haddadi was the difference maker. Standing 7"2, the former NBA player imposed his will down low as the game went on. His 17 points and 23 rebounds gutted India.
Vishesh led all scorers for India with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. No other Indian player scored in double figures. Yadwinder Singh had 4 points and 8 rebounds, Amjyot added 7 points and 7 rebounds and Amritpal put up 6 points and 7 rebounds.
This loss put India out of a podium finish. Barring the third quarter collapse, anything could have happened and the tough competition we put up is encouraging.
Japan started off strong, finishing the first quarter with a 22-14 lead, and India could not recover. Amritpal Singh led the way with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Amjyot added 18 points, 6 rebounds and 2 assists and Vishesh put up 9 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists.
Japan had the advantage in the paint, as they scored 34 points down low to India's 24. Three of Japan's players finished in double figures, and Ira Demon Brown was the difference maker for them as he had 20 points and 14 rebounds.
India had faced a 24 point loss from Chinese Taipei in the group stages, and odds makers were favouring the latter in this competition. India were keen to return the favour and wipe the bitter taste of that loss away, though, and managed it with a 12 point win.
Four players for India scored in double figures in this contest. Vishesh led the way with 22 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Amritpal Singh added 20 points and 13 rebounds. Rikin Pethani put up 17 points and 9 rebounds and TJ Sahi put up 13 points.
India's performance in this tournament is very encouraging, in spite of the sometimes confusing state of bureaucratic affairs back home. The Basketball Federation of India has announced a Rs 5 lakh reward for the entire team and coaching staff.
It will be interesting to see India’s performance continuing on this upward trajectory.