MANILA, Philippines — Kai Sotto used his learnings from his limited minutes in the first game to put up a better performance for Gilas Pilipinas against Angola on Sunday.
His improved play, however, went for naught as Gilas moved on the brink of elimination in Group A following an 80-70 loss to the Angolans in the Fiba World Cup at Araneta Coliseum.
The 7-foot-3 Sotto posted eight points on 3-of-3 shooting from the field and six rebounds in 19 minutes of play just two nights after picking up two quick fouls and logging only one minute in an 81-87 defeat to the Dominican Republic.
“After the first game, especially, I only played one minute and I really studied what I did on the court and my shortcomings. I only focused on the things that I have control of that’s why my mindset was I’m going to bounce back every time I step on the court and give my coaches more reasons to trust me when I’m on the court,” Sotto told reporters.
Sotto also committed two early fouls against Angola but this time, Gilas coach Chot Reyes felt it was best to keep the 21-year-old center on the floor.
“We liked the matchups that we had inside so we felt even he had two fouls, we could keep him inside because there was a guy that we felt that Kai could match up well against. As against the Dominican Republic the other game, he was going to be forced to match up with Karl-Anthony Towns so it was really a difficult matchup for us,” Reyes said.
“That’s it. It’s a game of matchups and personnel so we thought that Kai could stay longer on the floor tonight”
Gilas dropped to 0-2 in Group A but Sotto remained proud of the Philippines’ fightback where it went on an 11-0 run to pull within, 68-73, with 1:12 remaining after falling behind by 16.
“I think we had a good fightback. It was a close in the first half. We just had a lot of lapses, turnovers in the third quarter that led to their run,” Sotto said. “It’s hard to come back, especially in the World Cup so we can’t afford to let other teams have runs like that.”
“I’m proud of the team’s effort tonight. We just need to bounce back next game. We need to see where we lacked and then we’ll bounce back.”
Gilas plays Italy for a shot at making the second round on Tuesday, 8 p.m. still at Araneta Coliseum. The Italians are also coming off a loss after dropping an 87-82 loss to the Dominican Republic.
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