Gilas tests mettle of new-look India

By Nelson Beltran, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jul 17 2014 08:17 AM | Updated as of Jul 18 2014 03:23 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas steps up its drive in the fifth FIBA Asia Cup playoff stage, taking on the much-improved Indian squad under American coach Scott Flemming in the quarterfinal round today in the Wuhan Sports Centre in Wuhan, China.

The Nationals and the Indians clash at 5:15 p.m. with the winner advancing to the semis against the victor of the 2:45 p.m. matchup between titleholder Iran and 2008 champ Jordan.

The other Final Eight pairings pit 2013 FIBA Asia Championship third runner-up Chinese Taipei versus 2012 Asia Cup second placer Japan at 12:30 p.m., and host and many-time Asian champ China versus SEABA minnow Singapore at 7:30 p.m.

Gilas hopes to ride the momentum of a three-game sweep in Group B but remains cautious against the Indian squad which pulled off an upset win over China. The Indians also held their ground before bowing to the fancied Iranians.

In January, India ruled the Lusofonia Games, beating African power Angola in the gold-medal match.

Flemming wasn’t surprised at all with their win over China.

“With this win (against China), we are no longer a team with just potential. We can also perform to prove it,” said Flemming in a FIBA Asia Cup website report.

“In fact, I’m more surprised that this was the first win for India against China because we have a lot of potential and this should have happened much earlier,” said Flemming.

Gearing up for their coming FIBA World Cup stint, the Nationals welcome all the challenges they could get in Wuhan.

“We are looking for exactly that kind of challenges coming here,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

The Nationals have got one stern test against the Jordanians Tuesday night, barely pulling through, 71-70, to complete a three-game sweep of their group-play assignments.

Despite the improvement of India, the Filipinos are heavily favored against the team they haven’t lost a game for years.

The Philippines had been the region’s dominant team before China’s rise to power in the 70s while India has never made it past the semifinal round of any Asian competition.