Tall Blacks complete 6-0 clean sweep in China

TOP GUN: Kirk Penney helped the Tall Blacks to victory against Ivory Coast.
TOP GUN: Kirk Penney helped the Tall Blacks to victory against Ivory Coast.

The Tall Blacks rode the red-hot offence of Kirk Penney and Corey Webster to a clean sweep of their second straight international hoops tournament in China tonight.

Nenad Vucinic's New Zealand men's team smashed Ivory Coast 97-63 to conclude the China leg of their FIBA World Cup buildup tour on an emphatic note.

That gave them a 6-0 clean sweep over two four-nation tournaments in China and made it seven victories on the bounce as they look to fine-tune their game ahead of what shapes as a tricky pool at the global event in Spain.

Penney, a big-time scorer for the Tall Blacks for over a decade, scored a game-high 27 points (9/18 FG, 5/11 3PT) to go with four boards and four assists, while Webster, fast emerging as the Robin to Penney's Batman, added 20 points, including a sizzling six-of-nine from beyond the arc.

BJ Anthony, the under-sized but over-powered four man for the Tall Blacks, added 14 points (6/7 FG) and five boards while Tom Abercrombie added 12 points (6/10 FG) and four rebounds.

Coach Nenad Vucinic was pleased with the effort against a side he admitted dropped its head early and said it was a valuable chance to try different things as they continue to evolve their game.

"They gave up early and we got the lead up to 30 points, but they have two big centres and we looked at ways of countering that sort of size," Vucinic said.

"We did a good job of that. It was a good chance for us to do some different things like double teaming and defending on-ball screens. We were rusty in those things early but we got better and better, and made them look much worse than they really are.

"We did a good job defensively. They are not a bad team, with two guys close to seven foot tall, but we countered that height expertly."

Vucinic continued the evaluation process of naturalised Americans Nick Horvath and Casey Frank - only one of whom can make the final roster of 12 for Spain

Horvath played 17 minutes and notched four points and 10 rebounds, while Frank picked up three points and four boards in his 7:23 on court.

"Both Nick and Casey played well and both bring different things for us. We are working combinations. It is going to be a difficult decision, and we will think carefully and see how we go against top teams in the world," Vucinic said.

The team now heads to Europe where they will play Lithuania, Greece and Slovenia in Lithuania and then conclude their buildup in Serbia with two internationals against the home side.

"We expect it to be as tough as it can be for the next five games, which will be good for us," Vucinic said. "These games are crucial. We want to play the best teams in the world and that is what we will do."

The Tall Blacks shot well against Ivory Coast, going at 55 percent from two-point range and 45 from distance. They also out-rebounded the Africans 45-25 and forced 20 turnovers, against 15 conceded.

New Zealand 97 (Kirk Penney 27, Corey Webster 20, Benny Anthony 14, Thomas Abercrombie 12) Ivory Coast 63. 1Q: 30-18, HT: 44-34, 3Q: 70-49.