China bemoans dire performance at Asian championships

Agence France-Presse

BEIJING -- State media on Monday bemoaned the worst performance in decades by China's men's basketball team, which crashed out of the Asian championships in the first round.

The upset came as a blow to a country with high hopes for the men's team at next year's Beijing Olympics.

Even though China sent a second string team to defend their Asian title in Japan, Titan Sports and other newspapers pointed out that for the first time in 32 years, the 14-time champions failed to reach the event's knock-out stages.

The team looked "dead from the neck up," said the Beijing Times, during the later stages of their match Sunday against the Philippines, which they had to win to stay in contention for a quarter-final place. They lost 79-74.

On Saturday, the side lost to lowly Jordan.

China's chief coach A Dijiang agreed that the team went off the boil at a crucial stage of the defeat to the Philippines.

"Their minds went blank, forgetting everything they knew about tactics and technique," he told the Titan Sports newspaper.

But the coach said the result was only to be expected given the side's youth and inexperience.

Sixteen countries, divided into four groups, are competing in the championships. The winner of the tournament qualifies for a place in the Olympics next year.

As hosts of next year's Summer Games, China automatically get a berth in the basketball tournament and do not have to pre-qualify here.

China's A-team are playing in the Stankovic Cup, an international tournament in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

The team includes former NBA player Wang Zhizhi and Yi Jianlian, recently chosen in the NBA draft by the Milwaukee Bucks. Houston Rockets star Yao Ming is out injured.
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