TAIWAN - Taiwan yesterday produced a stunning 96-78 upset victory over China, advancing to the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Championship for the first time since 1999 while marking an unprecedented win over mainland rivals in 28 years of contest.
Leveraging the larger stature of its players, China established an early 10-point lead with a barrage of precision three-point shooting, with mainland star Yi Jianlian showcasing a rare two-handed slam dunk. China capitalised on a series of blunders by Taiwan toward the end of the first quarter, expanding its lead to as much as 17 points during the second quarter.
Taiwan turned dynamic in the second quarter, answering with its own barrage of three-pointers, closing the gap to 10 points at the conclusion of the first half of the match.
Taiwan's performance improved markedly throughout the second half of the match, mounting spirited assaults from range and under the hoop.
Taiwan gained the lead after a three-point shot by Tien Lei to set the score at 53-52. This was followed by two mid-range jump shots by Lu "The Male Model" Chung-ru, a fast break led by Tsai Wen-tsun, and another three-point shot by Lin "The Beast" Chih-jie, while repatriated centre Quincy Davis imposed his commanding presence in defending the restricted zone under the basket.
The Taiwanese team enjoyed 70-per cent accuracy in the second half; while scoring 31 points against China's 12 in the third quarter, sealing its victory.
At the end of the match, Jones recorded 26 points and 10 rebounds. Tsai Wen-tsun scored 21 points and 7 rebounds at 70-per cent accuracy. Team captain Lin Chih-jie scored 17 points and 7 assists, dispelling concerns over his injuries and mediocre performance in the two previous contests.
Following its victory over China, Taiwan is poised to face the heavily favoured Iran in a semifinal match on Saturday.
The top three finishers at the FIBA Asia Championship will qualify for the 2014 Basketball World Cup.
Meanwhile, the upset loss to Taiwan has sparked widespread criticism and outcry from basketball fans across the strait, who compared the unprecedented defeat to a similarly humiliating June 15 1-5 defeat against Thailand during a football tournament.
June 15 has since been deemed a day of infamy among many sports fans in China. Mainland fans have since been spurring for reforms concerning talent development, management and policies governing China's national teams and professional leagues.