MANILA, Philippines—As the final buzzer sounded, China hardly looked like a team that just won a hard-fought game.
With heavy legs, the Chinese five, still reeling from their monumental collapse against Chinese Taipei Friday night, dragged their bodies towards the winning locker room albeit any mood for any celebration.
“This game for us is not an easy game. It hasn’t been easy for us because we played with a different mentality now and with a different mood but we tried to make up for our mistake,” sighed forward Zhou Peng, who scored 13 points, with a straight face Saturday.
China was expected to at least secure one of the three slots for next year’s FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain if not win it all. But after getting knocked off in the quarters, placing fifth is the best finish it can get.
“I said it from the beginning, if you want to change you have to suffer. It’s a difficult way sometimes but we have to take lessons. Yesterday we played without mind, today with energy and without pressure we made smart things on the floor. To me this is something we can keep,” said China coach Panagiotis Giannakis, the Greek tactician best known for steering Greece past star-studded Team USA in the semifinals and into a silver medal in the 2006 Olympics.
China, for all its bravado, needed its veteran stars Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian to tow them to victory against a Jordan side which barely made it to the quarterfinals.
Wang poured in his tournament-best 33 points while Yi added 18 as China needed every bit of their contributions.
“We need a lot of work believe me. We can do it but we need support,” added the 54-year-old Gianakis.
China will meet the winner of the Qatar-Kazakhstan match, which will be played later, Sunday in a battle for fifth.