The game came down to the final seconds, as Boomers’ NBA star David Andersen made a pair of crucial free throws to give the Boomers a rare lead. Jordan had three final shots to win the game but all missed under pressure from the Boomers’ defence, giving Australia the win.
Aleks Maric led the Boomers in scoring with 23 points, while Andersen added 22 and Patrick Mills 10. Andersen and Maric also each had nine rebounds apiece.
Zaid Abbaas led the Jordanians with 20 points and Rasheim Wright added 16, but neither could make shot attempts in the closing seconds to give Jordan the upset win.
Jordan’s National Team (ranked 38th in the world by FIBA) were the surprise packet of the 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, winning the bronze medal to qualify for their first-ever world titles, and were clearly unintimidated by Australia (ranked 11th in the world) as they led for most of the game.
The Jordanians defied their minnow status to hold the lead for the entire first quarter. Jordan led 10-3 midway through the opening period as the Australian offence looked shaky. The Boomers closed to within two points late but Jordan, led by their American-born star Wright, went into the first break with a surprise 18-12 lead.
An Andersen trey to open the second quarter was followed by another triple from Mark Worthington to tie the game at 18-18. Jordan steadied to regain the lead however and had a 39-32 edge at the half. The one shining light in the first half for Australia was the form of Andersen, who had 14 points and five rebounds.
An upset seemed to be in the offing as the Jordanian lead grew out to 11 points early in the third period, but Australia went on a quick 5-0 run to close the gap. The teams traded blows for the next few minutes before Australia managed to close within two points on a massive Maric putback slam with less than two minutes to play in the third.
A Brad Newley dunk after a Jordan time-out tied the game at 52-52 before Jordan regained the lead with a three. Matt Nielsen made a quick two and when Maric rebounded his own miss and made a putback at the three-quarter time buzzer, Australia had their first lead of the match at 56-55.
When Maric scored a basket to open the final quarter, Australia looked poise to exert their authority but the upstarts from Jordan had other ideas. The scores were still knotted at 64-64 midway through final quarter, and when Zaid Al-Khas made a three with 3:17 left in the game, Jordan led 69-64.
Australia were down seven points when Andersen made a two on turnaround jumper and a Maric jump hook after a Jordan miss closed the gap to two, 71-68. When Rasheim Wright made a three shortly after however Australia looked to be on the verge of a massive upset loss. A quick Mills floater closed the gap to four, 74-70, and after Jordan converted one of two free throws at the other end, Mills made two freebies of his own to make it a three-point game, 75-72.
Joe Ingles drew an offensive foul with 44.9 seconds remaining and Nielsen dropped a two to make it a one-point game, 75-74, and force a Jordan timeout with 32.4 seconds left. Andersen rebounded a Jordan miss after the break and was fouled. He calmly stepped to the line with 13 seconds left and made both shots to move Australia ahead, 76-75. After another Jordan timeout, Wright had a shot on the edge of the paint to beat the Australians but missed.
In the mad scramble for the ball that followed, Jordan’s Abbaas rebounded the ball and took a shot, gathered his own miss and shot again only to have the ball bounce off the ring a second time and be knocked out of bounds as time expired.
Brett Brown said it was a bittersweet victory for the Boomers.
“We’re elated with the win obviously but you leave that game disappointed,” Brown said. “That’s not the Boomers team I’ve seen play over the last few months. The experience will serve us well however."
“We’ve pride ourselves on our defence but tonight we were terrible. Our rotations were average, we struggled to contain the dribbler on the drive, and we weren’t coming up with loose rebounds. We gave up 75 points and you’ve got to hold teams below 70.”
Brown said despite his team’s defensive struggles, he was heartened by the way his team came through with the fighting win.
“We really clawed our way back in to the game tonight and found a way to win,” Brown continued. “I thought that showed tremendous guts and character. That game was going south and we needed our bigs to step up and they did just that. Andersen, Nielsen and Maric were really good for us down the stretch.
“The way Maric played in particular showed the reason we were aggressive recruiting him. He is a legitimate interior five man, and a huge presence who compliments our other bigs. We got him the ball and he delivered. We were not winning that game without Maric.”
The Boomers now need to make a big adjustment for their next opponent, world number one Argentina.
“Against Argentina, we really need to bring it,” Brown continued. “Tonight we had no aggression or confidence, and we weren’t physical. We lost our swagger and I need to help get the guys back on track. I didn’t recognise the team today but there’s no better time to bring that to the table against world number one.”
Australia’s next game will be against Argentina at 4:30AM Monday morning Australian Eastern time.
Australia has been drawn in Group A for the 2010 FIBA World Championships and will also play Germany (30 August), Serbia (1 September) and Angola (September 2). All of the Boomers’ five preliminary round games will be held in Kayseri.
The Australia-Jordan match will be shown on delay at 8:00AM on Sunday morning on FOX SPORTS 1.
Australia 76 (Aleks Maric 23 points, David Andersen 22, Patrick Mills 10)
Jordan 75 (Zaid Abbaas 20, Rasheim Wright 16, Idais 11)
1st Q 12:18
2nd Q 20:21
3rd Q 24:16
4th Q 20:20