World Cup record breakers
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - September 4, 2019 - 12:00am

FOSHAN – Gilas’ 59-point humbling defeat to Serbia the other night set a record for the largest losing margin by a Philippine team in FIBA World Cup history. It came after Gilas suffered a 108-62 beating by Italy here last Saturday. In two games, the Philippines’ average losing margin is a whopping 52.5 points.

The Philippines has now lost 10 games to European teams in the World Cup, giving up at least 100 points in seven. Gilas has won only three games in its last 22 World Cup outings. The last triumph was the 81-79 overtime decision over Senegal in Seville, Spain, in 2014. The two previous victories were 87-86 over the Central African Republic and 101-100 over Australia at the 1974 World Cup in Puerto Rico. So the last three wins were by margins of one or two points.

Five players from the 2014 team are back in the Gilas roster – Andray Blatche, Gabe Norwood, Japeth Aguilar, Paul Lee and June Mar Fajardo. Coach was Chot Reyes. The 1974 cast listed Jimmy Mariano, Joy Cleofas, Tembong Melencio, Robert Jaworski, Francis Arnaiz, Abet Guidaben, Ramon Fernandez, Bogs Adornado, Yoyong Martirez, Manny Paner, Dave Regullano and Big Boy Reynoso. Coach was Tito Eduque. 

Fernandez, now a PSC commissioner, was in the stands when Italy crushed the Philippines to open their World Cup campaign here.  As a proud former national player, El Presidente must have felt the pain in his heart. The late Caloy Loyzaga, who led the Philippines to third place at the 1954 World Cup in Rio de Janeiro in the highest finish ever by an Asian country in the conclave, surely turned in his grave with the shellacking that Gilas has absorbed in this tournament.

The previous largest losing margin was 47 points in the Philippines’ 110-63 defeat to the Soviet Union and 119-72 setback to Brazil at the 1978 World Cup that Manila hosted. The Philippines lost all of its eight assignments before the homecrowd. Coach was Nic Jorge and the players were Alex Clarino, Steve Watson, Ed Merced, Padim Israel, Mon Cruz, Bokyo Lauchengco, Cesar Teodoro, Joy Carpio, Nat Castillo, Greg Gozum, Pol Herrera and Cesar Yabut. At the time, no pros were allowed to play in FIBA tournaments so the country’s best players in the PBA were barred from participating, leaving only amateurs to represent the flag.

The Serbia-Philippines game also marked a record for the winners. It was the first time ever for Serbia to post back-to-back games scoring at least 100 points in the World Cup. Serbia’s 126-67 demolition of the Philippines came after its 105-59 blasting of Angola.

Gilas coach Yeng Guiao said Serbia was just “too big, too good.” Serbia shot 75 percent from the field to Gilas’ 37 percent and issued 37 assists to Gilas’ 14. Serbia had more turnover points, 28-12, points in the paint, 70-38, fastbreak points, 20-8 and three-point conversions, 12-4. The Philippines’ consolation was it had more second chance points, 12-11 but that was because Serbia hardly missed so there were few offensive boards to haul down. 

Serbia’s NBA star Nikola Jokic was an impeccable 5-of-5 from the floor, including a triple, and finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in 18:45 minutes. Another Serbian who impressed Guiao was the Sacramento Kings’ 6-10 forward Nemanja Bjelica who hit 7-of-7 from the field, including three treys and 3-of-3 from the line for 20 points. Bjelica, 31, was the Washington Wizards’ second round pick in the 2010 NBA draft. He’s a longer version of Fernandez with sleek moves to the basket and a deadly perimeter jumper. The long-limbed Bjelica is the perfect physical specimen for basketball.

“I give Serbia a good chance to beat the US and any of the top teams in the World Cup,” said Guiao. “We tried to keep it as close as we could but it wasn’t for long. We shot only 4-of-24 threes. No way we could beat them inside because they’re bigger and stronger so our only hope was to make our outside shots but we didn’t.”

Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic said he doesn’t expect to win every game by 50 points. “We’re playing point by point and we know there are tough games ahead,” he said. “We try to improve in every aspect of the game. We approach every game seriously.” On Serbia’s game against Italy in a battle of unbeaten teams tonight, Djordjevic said he expects a hard fight. “We know them, they know us,” he said. “We beat them twice in the preparations but they’ve gotten better with (Danilo) Gallinari and (Gigi) Datome. They were very good in their opening game against the Philippines. They’re in shape but we’ll try our best to get a win.” In the friendlies, Serbia beat Italy, 96-64 and 71-65.

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