Australia powered its way to victory with a crushing 84-68 win against the Philippines in their FIBA World Cup qualifier in Melbourne overnight.
The match looked more like a home game for Gilas Pilipinas as the partisan Filipino crowd of 6,500 filled Margaret Court Arena with a sea of red, white and blue. It didn’t matter to the Australians, whose depth and experience proved too much of a challenge for the crafty Filipinos.
A slow start by the Boomers gave the Philippines an opportunity in the first quarter. The Filipinos came out firing and applied pressure to put the Australians to work early on.
Gilas were already at a disadvantage as injured star Jayson Castro sat and watched from the sidelines. His presence would have helped Gilas immensely. Instead, the Philippines relied on a pair of confident rookie phenoms, Keifer Ravena and Kevin Alas, to run the point.
The rabid pro-Filipino fans erupted when naturalized player Andray Blatche hit a floater as Gilas seized the lead for the first time, 12-11. The Australians came back with free throws by Angus Brandt and quick baskets from Kevin Lisch and Jesse Wagstaff. Gilas guard RR Pogoy hit a buzzer beating three to tie the game 19-19 by the end of the first.
Young guard Alas hit a three pointer to give Gilas an early lead to start the second quarter, 22-19. Both teams traded before Gilas Pilipinas surged 30-25 behind back-to-back baskets from big man June Mar Fajardo and Ravena.
However, a slight ankle injury to Ravena with 4:52 left put the momentum back to the Aussies. The Filipinos began to tire as the Boomers put on a torrid 12-2 run to hold a five-point lead by halftime.
The Boomers pulled away in the third stanza as Cam Gliddon torched Gilas with three consecutive shots from downtown. Mitch Creek and Angus Brandt pounded their way inside to help Australia extend the lead 63-49. Ravena eventually returned but it was already too late.
“I thought that we came out and had a very good start and put ourselves in a position to get a win,” said Blatche.
“But they came out with their veteran play and pressed us full court. They just took off.”
Gliddon led all scorers with 16 points. Brandt added 13 points, while Creek and Lisch chipped in 12 points apiece for Australia. Fajardo top scored for Gilas with 15 points, Matthew Wright added 9 points and Gabe Norwood 7 points. Blatche was held to 8 points and 8 rebounds for the visitors.
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes must now address their horrendous free throw shooting, better execution, defensive lapses and unforced turnovers as they head back home for their second match against Japan on Sunday.
Australia remains undefeated in Asia Zone Group B. They return for a second game in Melbourne against Chinese-Taipei.
AUSTRALIA 84 — Gliddon 16, Brandt 13, Creek 12, Lisch 12, Kay 7, Hodgson 6, Kickert, 5, Norton 4, Wagstaff 4, Cadee 2, Sobey 2, McCarron 1
GILAS PILIPINAS 68 — Fajardo 15, Wright 9, Blatche 8, Pogoy 8, Norwood 7, Alas 6, Ravena 6, Abueva 5, Aguilar 2, Tratter 2, Cruz 0, Maliksi 0.
Quarterscores: 19-19, 37-32, 63-49, 84-68.
For FIBA World Cup qualifier updates, visit http://fiba.basketball