MANILA, Philippines — Banking on its stingy defense, Iran smothered shorthanded Kazakhstan en route to an 85-53 win to top Group F in the 27th FIBA Asia men’s Championship at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Iran, which has won every game by double-digits, flaunted its depth anew as Kazakhstan severely missed the services of its naturalized point guard Jerri Johnson and another able body in Konstantin Dvirnyy due to injuries.
“It was a tough game. We played a strong team which is very good inside,” said Iran player Aren Davoudichegani. “We played very good defense.”
“We played a very physical team. We played a very good game. I’m satisfied,” echoed Iran coach Mehmed Becirovic, whose team led by as much as 38 points. “We’re now focusing in the quarterfinals.”
Iran plays Jordan, who edged Japan, 65-56, for the last quarters slot in Group E earlier, in rematch of the 2011 tournament where the Jordanians knocked off the Iranians in an upset.
Seven-foot-two center Hamed Hadadi had 16 points and nine rebounds while the sweet-shooting Hamed Afagh added 15.
“We played against the strongest team in the competition,” Kazakhstan coach Matteo Boniciolli said of the Iranians.
“They are dangerous inside and outside. They have great balance. This is a characteristic of a winning team,” Boniciolli added.
Kazakhstan struggled with the ball with 21 turnovers and just 12 assists sans Johnson.
“Jerri (Johnson) is very important for us,” said Boniciolli, who added that his starting playmaker might have sustained a tear on his muscle.
“If the game is worth risking, we will risk him (Johnson),” said Boniciollo.
Iran shot a potent 67% from the field while holding Kazakhstan to just 35% shooting.
The Kazakhs will most likely claim the fourth and last quarterfinals slot in Group F with Bahrain up against defending champion China.