China crush Mongolia in Asia Cup Qualifiers opener

With four players scoring in double digits, China thrashed Mongolia 80-49 to kick off its FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Thursday.

Hu Jinqiu proved himself

as the most trustworthy big man in China's squad, clinching a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds, while 18-year-old NBA prospect Yang Hansen shined in his senior national team debut with 13 points, three rebounds, and four assists in a 19-minute appearance. Zhu Junlong nailed all five of his attempts to pocket 11 points, and Du Runwang added 17.

34-year-old veteran Bilguun Battuvshin led Mongolia with 15 points, and Uuganbayar Tumenbayar contributed 10 points and five rebounds, three of them being offensive.

China slowly got into game mode, allowing Mongolia to start the game with an 8-1 run.

The tide turned after Yang and Abudushalamu Abudurexiti subbed in, and China returned with a 15-0 run with Abudushalamu's dunks and Yang's layups to hold their ground.

Despite making 16 turnovers in the game, giving Mongolia some fast-break points, with an absolute height advantage, Hu and Yang still dominated the paint, establishing China with a 23-point lead going into the fourth quarter, and the game soon entered garbage time.

Yang, who was not much of a talker, rated himself "bad" in his first national team game, adding "I was a bit nervous in the beginning, but adapted to the game rhythm later."

China's head coach, Aleksandar Djordjevic, praised his youngest player, saying that "he can be one of those players to color the game."

Djordjevic mentioned that they forced Mongolia into 24 turnovers, which was the turning point of the game. "After the early timeout, we changed our defensive intensity and forced them to shoot some bad shots and make turnovers."

Placed in Group C alongside Japan, Mongolia, and Guam, Djordjevic formed an unprecedentedly young squad with an average age of 24.1, aiming to "target the future." Team Dragon's players assembled in Qingdao on February 12 and had a teaching match behind closed doors a week later.

On China's final 14-men roster, only six players made their presence at last year's FIBA World Cup, missing former paint aces Zhou Qi and Wang Zhelin.

In an earlier Group C match on Thursday, Japan surged in the third quarter to overcome World No. 76 Guam 77-56. Yuki Kawamura led Japan with 15 points, and Makoto Hiejima added 12.

Twenty-four teams were divided into six groups to compete for 16 Asia Cup berths, with each group's top two teams directly advancing and the six third-best teams in the group phase contending for the remaining four tickets on offer.

For the second round of the first window period, China will travel to encounter Japan on February 25.

"We already talked about this game (Japan game) after the [Mongolia] game in the lockers. Japan brings a lot of enthusiasm into games, and they will take advantage of the home court, but we got their information and will get into detailed preparation," Djordjevic noted for the upcoming away game.