It took some time before Gilas Pilipinas figured out a riddle that is Iraq. But when they did, it’s already over.
Gilas Pilipinas shrugged off a rough first half and exploded big in the second half to crush a stubborn Iraq side, 84-68, for their second victory in as many games in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup at the NouhadNawfal Sports Complex in Beirut, Lebanon, Friday night.
Pushed to the limit in the low-scoring first half, the Philippines asserted their mastery right after the break, shutting down Iraq’s go-to-guy Kevin Galloway while turning the heat on the offensive end to put a follow up to a stunning victory over defending titlist China two nights ago.
The win also gives the two-time silver medalists the top spot in the Group B, which means an automatic slot in the quarterfinal round will be given to the team and that allows them to avoid an early matchup with powerhouse Australia.
Christian Standhardinger, who struggled early in the game, opened the third quarter for Gilas Pilipinas with 10 straight baskets, before Terrence Romeo drilled two back-to-back layups and a triple in the face of the Iraqis’ defense to spark a huge Philippine surge.
From 35-all, the Philippines touched off 21 unanswered points, put to stop only by an Ali Hamad’s triple with a minute left in the third period, to turn a 32-31 halftime edge to a comfortable 60-40 lead heading into the final frame.
Fil-German Standhardinger finished with 16 points and seven rebounds, while Romeo had 14 of his 17 points in the second half to lead a balanced Gilas Pilipinas offense.
Carl Bryan Cruz shot 3 of 3 from beyond the arc to score 11 points, while RR Pogoy, Matthew Wright, and Gabe Norwood provided stability on the defensive end that got the offense going.
Pogoy, Wright, and Norwood were responsible for shutting down Iraq’s naturalized player Galloway, who torched the Philippines in the first half with 15 points but ended up with just 23 on top of 14 boards and six assists.
Galloway, a 6-foot-7 point guard, caught up with fatigue as he shot just 7 of 21 from the field and had four turnovers. He was held scoreless in the entire third quarter where the Philippines thoroughly outscored Iraq, 28-9.
The Filipinos wrap up the preliminary round on Sunday against also-ran Qatar, who yielded to China earlier, 92-67.
PHILIPPINES 84 – Romeo 17, Standhardinger 16, Cruz 11, Pogoy 9, Norwood 8, Wright 8, Aguilar 5, Jalalon 4, Abueva 3, Almazan 2, Castro 1
IRAQ 68 – Galloway 23, Hamzah 12, Al-Khafaji 8, Ismael 6, Hamad 5, Hameed 5, Abdullah 3, Algburi 2, Dhafer 2, Talib 2, Alazawi 0, Aljuboori 0
Quarterscores: 17-19, 32-31, 60-40, 84-68. –Julian Rikki Reyes