Iran to face South Korea in Asian Games basketball final
INCHEON, South Korea - The South Korea men's team thrilled a large home crowd with an improved second-half defensive display Wednesday, October 1 to reach the Asian Games basketball final by beating Japan 71-63.
But there was nearly a huge upset in the other semi-final when unbeaten favorites Iran were almost humbled by unheralded Kazakhstan, but edged home 80-78.
Japan led most of the first half against the Koreans with Naoto Tsuji rattling home three of his game-high five three-pointers as he dished out an early shooting lesson at the Samsan World Gymnasium in Incheon.
"We knew they liked those mid-range jump shots and we tried to take those away, but the other guys got loose for a lot of threes," Korea's "T.J." Moon Tae-Jong told AFP.
"It was a little frustrating in the first half. We knew they were good shooters but we didn't expect them to make that many threes in the beginning."
Towards the end of the second period Japan's shooting radar went awry and South Korea leveled at 34-34 by the break.
It was a different story in the second half as the Koreans found their range and tightened up defensively to jump out to a 43-34 lead on the back of good rebounding from the 6-foot-9 Lee Jong-Hyun.
They were never behind again and held on comfortably to reach Friday's gold medal match against the favorites Iran.
"At half-time the coach told us to focus more on the shooters and still play good defense on the big guys," added Moon.
"In the second half I think we played a little bit better than them on defense and we got the win.
"This is what we've been working for for four months. So hopefully we can get the gold."
Captain Samad Nikkhah Barami scored 27 points as Iran barely scraped home against surprise semi-finalists Kazakhstan at the Gwaseong Gymnasium.
Kazakhstan roared back from 48-42 down at half-time to level at 64-64 by the end of the third period.
The Kazakhs continued in the same vein for much of the fourth and led 77-68 with a few minutes remaining but Nikkhah Barami inspired a 9-0 scoring to turn it around at 78-77 and they just held on till the buzzer.
"I know the Iran team quite well, they play a European style, so I think the final will be a tough game for us," South Korea coach Yoo Jae-Hak said. - Rappler.com