MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas struggled to find the rhythm in the first half but made a relentless run when it finally hit its stride to rock Iraq, 84-68, to secure an outright knockout-round passage in the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup at the Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex in Beirut last night.
Breaking down the Iraq game in their halftime huddle, the Nationals unleashed a vicious third-quarter attack to zoom away at 56-35 from a 32-31 edge at the break.
Fil-German forward Christian Standhardinger, a stand-in for absentee naturalized player Andray Blatche, provided the initial spark with his daring inside incursions before Terrence Romeo took over, hitting from inside and out in a bristling run that shattered the stand of the tall, rugged Iraq team.
Romeo finished with 17 points, including three three-pointers, while Standhardinger wound up with 16 markers and seven boards, standing out for the Nationals as they scored a follow-up to their 96-87 conquest of titleholder China on Wednesday.
Gilas joined Australia (Group D) and New Zealand (Group C) among the group leaders already assured of spots in the knockout stage.
In disposing of the Chinese and the Iraqis, the Nationals advanced all the way to the Final Eight.
For good measure, Team Phl goes up for a sweep of Group B play versus winless Qatar (0-2) tomorrow.
Gabe Norwood, Carl Bryan Cruz, RR Pogoy and Matthew Wright also fired on all cylinders as Gilas unleashed its full range of its arsenal in the second half.
Norwood was a big key on his defensive effort on Kevin Galloway whom he stopped in the third quarter after dominating with near triple-double numbers right in the first half.
Galloway, a one-time US NCAA Southwestern Athletic Conference first-teamer, dominated with 15 points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals as the Iraqis set the pace most of the first half.
The Nationals banked on six clutch treys as they stayed right behind the Iraqis before grabbing the lead at the turn at 32-31.
Helpful for the Filipinos was Iraq’s atrocious 5-of-13 foul shooting in the first 24 minutes of play.
The Iraqis were still right there in the battle at 35-37 when the Filipinos suddenly exploded with a 19-to-nothing salvo to open the 56-35 bulge.
Galloway and his teammates failed to score a basket in an eight-minute stretch and failed to recover from there.
Struggling with a 1-of-7 clip in the first half, Romeo went on a big turnaround in the third quarter, highlighting his exploits with an acrobatic reverse layup off a steal, a looping layup off a 6-foot-10 defender then a booming trey also off a tall defender.