x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UAE go down fighting against China

The UAE basketball team's loss to China - a side packed with professionals including NBA players - yesterday was expected, but they can hold their heads high.

The UAE basketball team's loss to China - a side packed with professionals including NBA players - yesterday was expected, but they could hold their heads high after the 82-59 defeat in the Asian Basketball Championships. With a 54-place gap between the UAE, 63rd in International Basketball Federation (Fiba) world rankings, and the Asian giants, who are ninth, China could have expected the first match of their second round campaign to be a walkover.

But the Emirates held their own against an intimidating China side, which boasted the 6ft 11ins NBA Milwaukee Bucks power forward Yi Jianlian. "We came to the court to fight, we played with heart. I'm very happy that we played a great game. I'm thankful to the team for their performance," said the UAE team technical director Mounir Ben Slimane. Fighting back from a tough 27-10 first quarter deficit, UAE held the hosts at 16-16 in the second. With their confidence clearly boosted they went on to claim an advantage over the third quarter, which ended 15-21.

China regained their composure in the fourth quarter, playing out the final period 24-12 to finish the match 82-59 winners. With an average height of 6ft 8ins, China towered over the UAE squad who, with their smallest player Saleh Khalifa standing at 5ft 9ins, average a relatively tiny 6ft 2ins. "We played very smart in defence, but it is difficult to defend against those tall players," said Ben Slimane.

"We got hurt inside. It is hard for us to defend there because China are so tall, they come over us. They fought very hard. They showed a lot of talent, but until we can match them for size it will be difficult to match their technique." Rashed Naser Alzaabi was the UAE's stand-out player, scoring 20 points and claiming six rebounds. sports@thenational.ae