Tall Blacks crush India with five debutants, face Philippines next

The Tall Blacks will face the Philippines in their second FIBA World Cup Qualifying fixture in Manila on Sunday (tip-off at midnight NZ time).

The Tall Blacks overpowered India in the opening game on Thursday winning 101-46 to record New Zealand’s largest ever margin of victory in the four games ever-played against India.

The win was expected, the margin of victory not so, given the Tall Blacks had only had two full training sessions together before the fixture.

“It’s just nice to get back on court again, as this is our first international in two years,” said Tall Blacks assistant coach Daryl Cartwright.

“We are happy despite the limited practice time we had. Our players were hungry and were keen to represent the country, so we are happy with the win overall.”

Tom Vodanovich led the way with 21 points while Ethan Rusbatch (18 points), Rob Loe (15) and Taylor Britt (11) were the other players in double figures. The double digit outings by Vodanovich, Rusbatch and Britt were all international career highs.

International debuts were handed to Taki Fahrensohn, Joe Cook-Green, Taane Samuel, Hyrum Harris and Jayden Bezzant while Ben Gold and Taylor Britt were making just their second appearances.

The Tall Blacks (#27 on the FIBA world rankings) have faced the Philippines (ranked 33rd) on seven previous occasions winning four of those contests. The most recent match-up was in 2016 in Manila when the Tall Blacks won an Olympic Qualifying tie 89-80.

The leading scorers on that occasion were Tai Webster (25 points), Corey Webster (23pts), Isaac Fotu (17pts) and Tom Abercrombie (13pts).

The experienced Rob Loe, with 87 appearances (82 Tests), has played more games for the Tall Blacks than the rest of the current squad added together.

The Breakers centre made his senior international debut in 2009 while still at Westlake Boys High School and now needs to score just three points to tally 500 points for the Tall Blacks. 

Ethan Rusbatch is next best with 235 points in 36 appearances.

The largest margin of victory against the Philippines came in 1975 when the Tall Blacks won a home test 128-73 when the likes of Stan Hill, John MacDonald and Stu Ferguson were terrorising Filipino defenders. 

The two members of the 14-man squad in Manila that didn’t feature against India were Richie Rodger and Brayden Inger. It will be interesting to see if coach Pero Cameron gives these two players their international initiations on Sunday. I suspect the pair will have to wait until the second outing against India, on Monday, to don the black singlet. 

*Stats provided by Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns statistician Tony O’Connor.

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