It was the first time that the Malaysia National Team played in front of their home crowd at the renovated MABA Stadium. They didn’t disappoint with a solid win over the National Taiwan Normal University, 79-70, in the MABA International Basketball Invitation 2017.
Westports Malaysia Dragons prized forward, Kuek Tian Yuan, started the game for the Malaysia National Team alongside two other ABL team mates, Wong Yi Hou and Teo Kok Hou. Kuek jumped out of the gates with 8 of the team’s first 11 points. Then, the home team started widening the gap when they substituted in their second unit. National Taiwan scored only 3 points in the last five minutes and Malaysia ended the first quarter with a 22-12 lead.
National Taiwan overcame that scoring draught quickly in the second half by bursting out on the fastbreak and drawing fouls. After holding Malaysia to only 3 points in the first 6 minutes of the quarter, Normal Taiwan was able to tie the game at 25 with a three-point shot from Chun Chan. Both teams went back and forth and just when it seemed like the first half was going to end in deadlock, Yi Hou hit a miraculous buzzer-beating half-court heave to give Malaysia the lead at halftime, 33-30.
Sparked once again by Kuek, who connected for his first three-point shot of the game, Malaysia came out of the halftime break with a 9-2 run. They sustained their energy throughout the entire quarter at which they held the lead, 56-47.
Despite Malaysia gaining momentum, National Taiwan would not go down easily. With their advantage in speed, the visitors blitzed and blazed right into the teeth of the Malaysia defense to cut the lead down to two with a 10-2 run to start the final interval. Malaysia then turned to trusted veteran stalwart Chee Li Wei who replied with 5 straight points of his own.
Li-Chieh Chang then fired up the Taiwanese side with a monstrous two-handed jam. He continued to instantly steal the ball on the inbound pass leading to a foul that brought National Taiwan to within 3 points.
The visiting team continued to pressure Malaysia with swarming defense and consecutive turnovers got them to within one point at 65-54 with less than 5 minutes to go in the game.
Then it turned into the Kuek Tian Yuan show.
With his team forced into a corner, Kuek took over. In the following possession, Kuek drove hard to the basket, drew a foul, and calmly sank both free throws. He followed that play up with a huge three point shot and another fastbreak layup to give Malaysia a comfortable 8-point cushion.
The battle heated up when Normal Taiwan made back-to-back three point shots to come within 3 points, but they couldn’t get any closer as Malaysia didn’t miss any of their late game free-throws.
Tian Yuan finished with game-high 30 points on 57% shooting. Both he and Chee Li Wei (13 points, 4 rebounds, and 4 blocks) provided Malaysia with offensive and defensive plays whenever National Taiwan Normal University were closing in.
Malaysia will be playing Chung Chou University of Science and Technology (Taiwan) tomorrow at 8:00 PM (local time).
Cover Photo by Onvisa Thewphaingarm