Rashid Al Zaabi scored 21 points yesterday, and the UAE national team kept alive their hopes of a berth in the 2012 London Olympics by moving into the second round of the Fiba Asia Championship despite a 75-60 loss to hosts China at Wuhan.
The UAE finished third in Group D and advanced to the final 12 of the 16-nation tournament.
The winner of the continental competition clinches a place at London 2012, and the teams finishing second and third enter a 12-team global qualifying tournament in July; the top three teams there will also play in the Summer Games.
Al Zaabi, a 23-year-old guard from the Al Wasl club, made eight of his 19 shots against China, who led only 40-32 at half time.
Al Zaabi also led the UAE in rebounds with six and assists with three.
The China side featured several NBA players, including the seven-footer Yi Jianlian, who last season played for the Washington Wizards.
The UAE lost 92-52 to the Philippines in their first group stage match, despite 12 points by Ahmed Hussain of Al Shabab, but rebounded to defeat Bahrain 91-53.
Ibrahim Ahmed, a guard from Al Wasl club, led UAE scorers with 17 points in the first match. Al Zaabi added 16 points, and Ali Al Hattawi and Jasim Abdullah each scored 13. Malalla Banihammad and Al Hattawi each took 10 rebounds to lead all players in the Bahrain game.
The second phase of the tournament begins tomorrow, and the UAE will play Japan, Syria and Jordan, probably needing at least two victories to reach the quarter-finals of the tournament.
Also in their group are China and the Philippines.
The other six-nation group is led by the defending champions Iran, and includes South Korea, Lebanon, Chinese Taipei, Uzbekistan and Malaysia.
Bahrain, Qatar, Indonesia and India were eliminated from championship competition and now compete to see who places 13th through 16th in the tournament. Qatar have been playing with only five players.
* Compiled by The National staff