2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Australia

Enzo Flojo on Jul 05, 2019 02:06 PM
2019 FIBA U19 World Cup Preview: Philippines vs Australia
Kai Sotto and Gilas Youth faces a familiar foe in Australia in the classification round of the FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece on Friday (Photo courtesy of FIBA.com)

The Philippines has officially been booted out of top eight contention at the 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece having lost their fourth straight game, 87-60, against a powerhouse Serbian squad this past Wednesday.

Now our boys are playing for pride and placing, and they will plunge into action next against fellow FIBA Asia squad Australia, which also lost in the Round of 16 to Lithuania, 91-74. 

Australia actually did pretty well in the group phase, winning against Latvia and Mali, but they ran into a really solid Lithuanian quintet in the KO stage. The Lithuanians shot very well in that game, hitting 44% of their threes on top of outrebounding the Aussies. 

As for our boys, well, Gilas Youth just ran into a brick wall in their own KO contest. The game was still within reach for the Filipinos in the first half and even at the beginning of the third period, but that was when Serbia made a big run that broke the game open and deflated our team's morale. 

We were outrebounded, 49-26, and we were power less to stop Serbia's interior play. The Serbs outscored us, 56-26, around the basket, led by their towering frontline of Filip Petrusev, Marko Pecarski, and Dalibor Ilic, all of whom stand 6'9" or above. 

Australia, for its part, won't be as big as Serbia, but they still have a number of sizable assets that will most definitely make life more than difficult for our boys tonight. 

Expected to lead the way is 6'11" center Sam Froling, who will surely have an interesting duel with our own 7'2 Kai Sotto in the middle. Those two already met in last year's FIBA U18 Asia Cup, with the Philippines losing big, 77-43, in the semifinals. 

In that game, Sotto struggled bit time, scoring just 2 points on 1 out of 5 shooting from the field. Froling, meanwhile, had a ball, putting up 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 blocks in just 18 minutes of play. 

Nobody from the Philippines scored more than nine points in that encounter, with AJ Edu's nine markers leading the way. Dave Ildefonso, who has been a spitfire scorer in Greece so far, also had a bad game against the Aussies last year, shooting a paltry 2 out of 12 from the floor to finish with just five points. 

For sure, both Sotto and Ildefonso would like to have a good bounce back game tonight, though that'll be easier said than done as Australia would also love nothing more than to rebound from their Round of 16 defeat with a win.

For coach Sandy Arespacochaga's boys to put up a good fight and be in a chance to steal this game, three things must happen.

First, our wingmen need to hit their outside shots. It's bad enough that they are at a disadvantage when defending bigger and more athletic opponents on the perimeter, but if they also fail to score, then that's just a double-whammy for Gilas Youth's chances. Making threes, in particular, has been tough. The Filipinos are 14th overall in three-point shooting thus far, hitting only 21.5% from beyond the arc and making an average of just 5.0 treys per game. 

Next, we have to keep our turnovers as low as possible. The Philippines is not the most turnover-prone team out there, but because we have a deficiency in size, especially at the wing positions, the more we cannot afford to cough the ball up, especially if this leads to easy transition baskets for the other team. Ildefonso, specifically, needs to take better care of the rock. Right now, the NU Bulldog is turning the ball over 4.3 times per game, which is the third-highest mean in the entire competition. If the second-generation star can keep his TOs low while rediscovering his range, he will turn a lot of heads in this match. 

Lastly, our boys need to get to the line as many times as they can. The Philippine sis making close to 71% of its free throws, which is just below the top three in the tournament. If Coach Sandy's boys can fish for a lot of fouls and get to the line, that will significantly boost their chances of keeping within striking distance of Australia. 

A win for the Philippines here means the highest we can place is 9th overall, but a loss bumps us down to the 13th-16th place games.

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