PETALING JAYA: Malaysia are well poised for their best finish in 22 years after beating Uzbekistan 80-75 in a second round group match of the 26th Fiba Asian Championship basketball tournament at Wuhan, China yesterday.
Malaysia finished ninth back in 1989 and last recorded a victory in the tournament back in 1995 – a 22-match winless streak. This time they went into the tournament with the sole target of winning a match.
That streak looked set to prolong after they were drawn together with South Asian champions India, East Asian champions South Korea and Lebanon in Group A of the preliminary rounds.
They were duly thumped by the Koreans 42-89 and also lost to Lebanon 59-87.
However last Friday, Malaysia defeated India 71-67 to end their miserable winless streak and proceed into the second round, drawn together with South Korea, Lebanon, Taiwan, Iran and Uzbekistan in Group E.
With their second win of the tournament, Malaysia could well finish as high as ninth as a semi-final spot is already out of reach after their 36-121 defeat to Iran on Monday.
They will wrap up their second round group match against Taiwan today and should meet UAE in the playoffs for ninth-12th spot.
“We were slightly inferior to the Uzbeks in terms of height and rebounding but we did fairly well defensively,” said national coach Goh Cheng Huat.
“We have also improved offensively compared to the first four games as we managed to score 80 points for the first time and I’m very happy that we won.
“We will go all out against Taiwan and I have set a score target for the team to achieve.
“Hopefully we’ll do well and find a right balance between attacking and defending,” concluded Cheng Huat.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s main rivals for the gold medal in the SEA Games, Philippines proved to be a strong force by beating Jordan 72-64 in a Group F second round match but SEA Games hosts Indonesia are already eliminated after crashing out in the preliminaries.