Tall Blacks down Tigers in China for clean sweep
The Tall Blacks' World Cup buildup campaign gained some real momentum in China overnight when they completed a clean sweep of the four-nation tournament in Shenzhen.
Having accounted for Cameroon and Ivory Coast over the first two days, Nenad Vucinic's New Zealand men produced their best performance of the tournament when they thumped local club and Chinese NBL champions the Guangdong Southern Tigers 97-75.
The Tigers had also defeated both African sides to set up a clash of the unbeaten teams on the final day of the event.
Nenad Vucinic rested skipper Mika Vukona and Tom Abercrombie and again minutes were shared evenly among those active - Kirk Penney logging 24 minutes and Everard Bartlett, Corey Webster and Isaac Fotu all with 20 minutes.
The in-form Corey Webster led the New Zealand scoring with 19 points (8/11 FG), while Rob Loe had his best offensive effort of the tour with 16 points (7/9 FG) and Kirk Penney also added 16 points to go with five assists.
The Tall Blacks dominated the boards (33-21) with Fotu notching a team-high seven rebounds. For the second straight game the New Zealanders also kept their turnover count down to a manageable 14, while they had an impressive 25 assists.
In what was expected to be their toughest encounter of the tournament, the Tall Blacks trailed 19-22 after the first period but took control by the halftime break where they led 40-32.
They extended their advantage to 16 by the three-quarter mark (68-52) and cruised to the championship in convincing fashion. It was a quality win for the New Zealanders who have been building nicely since edging South Korea 3-2 in a surprisingly competitive home-away series.
Vucinic's men will now have a couple of days off before playing another four-team tournament involving Cameroon, Ivory Coast and hosts the DongGuan Leopards.
The Tall Blacks are on a 13-game pre-World Cup tour, before they take part in the global tournament in Spain. They have drawn hot favourites the USA, Turkey, the Ukraine, Finland and the Dominican Republic in their pool.
New Zealand 97 (Corey Webster 19, Kirk Penney 16, Rob Loe 16), Guangdong Southern Tigers 75 (Wang Shipeng 27, Dong Hanlin 11). 1Q: 19-22; HT: 40-32; 3Q: 68-52.