Christian Standhardinger was a vital cog for Gilas' impressive 84-68 victory over Iraq. | FIBA.com

Gilas 'shocks and awes' Iraq
(philstar.com) - August 12, 2017 - 1:38am

MANILA, Philippines – It’s a term Iraq knows all too well. After the intense Allied bombings that signaled the start of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 — a military doctrine known as “shock and awe” — 14 years later, their national basketball team got a Philippine version of it.

After a battle of attrition in the first half that saw the Philippines take a slim 32-31 lead, Gilas proceeded to drop a 24-4 bomb that virtually ended the match right there in the third period.

Unlike the match against China two days earlier where the Filipinos were careful enough to not let another lead slip away as what nearly happened against China two nights ago. Furthermore, it was a bigger lead that they nursed — 23 points.

How did they take victory No. 2?

It started out this way… with Christian Standhardinger’s defense on Keith Galloway.

The latter, who is the naturalized player of Iraq shot and bulldozed his way to most of his points in the first half. He almost singlehandedly put all of the Philippines’ bigs in foul trouble.

Come the third period, Standhardinger didn’t give Galloway room to shoot or even drive. The American-Iraqi only had two attempts and they were from 3-point distance. He missed both. With his shot unable to fall, he didn’t even get a chance to attack the basket because Standhardinger pushed he far from his comfort zone.

Part of the story in the China win was winning the inside game that allowed the shooters to get some space and looks. While Terrence Romeo and Matthew Wright gave the Philippines its lead in the first half — one they would not surrender — it was Standhardinger who gave the team the impetus to pull away with his inside game.

Romeo led Gilas in scoring with 17 points while the impressive Standhardinger added 16 points (off 60 percent shooting) and 7 rebounds. Think that was good? Against China, the Fil-German hit 75 percent of his shots.

A formidable one-two punch in the making?

My take on a team that likes to jack it up from the outside more than score from the inside is this: they aren’t skilled enough to attack off the dribble. And when you take away something they like to do which is in this case — bombard from the outside — they panic.

With Galloway unable to fire away, Iraq wilted. With center Mohamed Al-Khafaji fouling out, there went two of their options. Iraq isn’t deep or talented enough to mount a sustained challenge from a dangerous foe like the Philippines.

Live by the outside shot; die by the outside shot

Iraq attempted eight triples in the first period and made two. They fired up another seven in the second and missed all of them. They threw six more in the third and they only hit one — and that was like a good 26 feet out or a step back more. Come the fourth, they went 2-for-6 from that range for a poor total of 6-29 and 20 percent shooting.

That is terrible however you look at it.

In contrast, the Philippines was 12-29 for 41 percent.

When it counted the most, Terrence Romeo and Matthew Wright hit one each in the waning minutes of the second period that allowed the Philippines to take a one-point lead, 32-31.

In the third period, the Philippines went 2-for-6, and in the payoff period when Iraq tried to mount a semblance of a rally, the nationals still outshot Iraq, 4-8.

On a day where the other Filipinos struggled, Romeo, Standhardinger and Gabe Norwood gave the team balance, firepower and defense.

Gilas thus blew out Iraq, 84-68, for its second win to lead Group B.

The coast is clear for an incredible finish in the group stage. The Philippines takes on winless Qatar in its third assignment of the group stage while Iraq and China battle for second place.

Incredible. Barely a week ago, the prognostications proved dim. And I will go back to my interview with Norwood a few hours before they flew to the Middle East — “the conditions are right to shock the world.”

Awe as well.

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