Fiba Asian Qualifiers Preview: Gut check time for Kazakhstan vs Philippines

It is gut check time for Kazakhstan when it comes to the Asian
Qualifiers for the 2019 Fiba World Cup.

At 3-5, the Kazakhs are on the outside looking in.

It will be tough to catch Australia at 7-1 and possibly Iran at 6-2.
The Philippines has two games up on them at 5-3 while Japan at fourth
spot, is at an even 4-4.

Unfortunately, Kazakhstan will be playing the two team directly above
them in the next two games – the Philippines this November 30 and
Japan on December 3.

The Kazakhs opened their Asian Qualifying campaign with two wins –
82-70 over Qatar and 82-76 over Iraq. However, when they ran into
tougher opposition, they got creamed.

Iran blew them off the court, 75-54, in front of their home crowd in
Astana. They righted their ship with a repeated win over Qatar 96-63.

Then came the shock of their lives when they were ambushed by an Iraq
team playing their “home games” at Doha. The Iraqis prevailed 64-50.
It was a loss with huge implications for an away match with Iran was
next. A massacre ensued, 88-56. Two other blowouts losses ensured,
85-70, to a rejuvenated Japan, and 94-41 to Australia.

It is a young team that head coach Renatas Kurilionokas will bring to
Manila. With an average age of 26 years old and an average height of

In contrast, the Philippines has an average height of 6’5” as well and
is slightly older in terms of age with an average of 29 years for the

For Kazakhstan to make headway against the Philippines and what will
surely be a boisterous home crowd, they need their three-point shots
to fall. Beyond the arc is where they get a lot of their points.

They are also a pretty good rebounding team; even with the
Philippines. The battle will be who can stop the other from doing what
they do best.

For the Kazakhs, it is shooting outside. For the Philippines, it is
pounding the ball inside and getting on the fastbreak. The Filipinos
average about 39 points inside the lane as compared to Kazakhstan’s 22

The Kazakhs need their starters to stay in the game and not get into
foul trouble because their bench production is rather poor as compared
to the Filipinos – 41.3 to 24.8.

One of their key players is 6’9” power forward Anton Ponomarev who has
only played two matches due to injury. If he can return, he will help
their frontline. Ponomarev is their scoring leader with an average of
19.5 points per game. He also helps on the boards with 7.0 rebounds
and is able to pick out teammates for baskets with 2.0 assists per

However, when the Philippines played Kazakhstan in the recent Asian
Games for a 96-59 blowout win, it was 6’6” power forward Anton Bykov
who led them in scoring and rebounding.

One other threat is 29-year old 6’7” forward Anatoliy Kolsenikov
tallies 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per match.

Kazakhstan will need their backcourt duo of Rustam Murzagaliyev and
Rustam Yergali to click. Both like to bombard from the outside.

Young point guard Murzagaliyev who plays for BC Astana adds 8 points,
3.8 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per match. Murzagaliyev started his
country’s campaign on a hot shooting clip, but with team’s having
scouted him and throwing taller defenders at him, his efficiency from
three-point range has dwindled; leaving him to attack that basket.
Murzagaliyev isn’t exactly small as he stands 6’4”, but it is a
challenge for him to get his offense going.

Yergali, the shooting guard, averages 11.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, and
2.6 assists per game.

If the two can get going they will help out their small frontline. And
if they can get some bench production (not to mention of Ponomarev is
back in the team) that will help plenty. And it might give them an
outside chance of challenging for a top three spot in Group F of the
Asian Qualifiers.