The Tall Blacks looking to make it two from two in the February FIBA World Cup Qualifying games. The team has arrived in Seoul, South Korea after Friday night’s stunning win in China, but knowing they have another mountain to climb in the shape of the free-scoring Korean side.
The offensively geared Koreans have already shown their class in Pool A qualifying, with a win over New Zealand in Wellington in November, before going on to lose to China in that same window. They predictably defeated Hong Kong on Friday night at home and will be primed and waiting for the Tall Blacks.
Head Coach Paul Henare says this is a game that has been churning away at the pit of a few stomachs since November.
"There is no point trying to hide from that. The players have spoken about it, all of us felt it that night in Wellington, we felt we didn’t play at our best. Maybe the occasion got the better of us, but that has only strengthened the resolve in the group to turn that result around on Monday and the game in China was a good indication that everyone has a better understanding of what is required to perform in these short FIBA windows.
"We know what we are in for though. Korea is a team that can shoot the lights out on any given night and they have multiple players who can hurt you. We will need to be at our best, we will need to bring the same defensive intensity we showed against China and trust our own systems on offence, and back ourselves to again make the right decisions and take our shots when they are open.”
The next day and a half are all about the physical recovery after the intensity of Friday night, and scouting a team that plays a very different style of basketball to the Chinese, with multiple outside threats, as was shown when winning in November.
Everyone has reported in good health however, with guard Corey Webster underlining the determination in the team to turn the tables on the Koreans.
"We are good to go. The short turnaround and travel won’t be a factor. This is what we love doing, pulling on the black singlet and playing for our country. Friday night was a great battle and a great feeling at the final buzzer, but we have work to do,” says Webster.
"We have been waiting for this game for a while now, I guess for me it has been in the back of my mind since November. I came away from that game angry that we didn’t play our best and that perhaps we didn’t show some of the traditional qualities of Tall Blacks basketball.
"We showed improvements against China, that is the level we need to be at every game and Monday night we need to lift the intensity again. You might say we owe them one, but it is more about us and our standards. We need to be the best we can be in the black singlet and leave it all out there.”