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MANILA, Philippines — After a mere minute‘s worth of action in the FIBA World Cup curtain-raiser against the Dominican Republic last Friday, Kai Sotto got some much-needed playing time from head coach Chot Reyes.
The 21-year-old prospect played almost half of the game during Gilas’ 80-70 loss against Angola on Sunday, August 27, putting up 8 points on 100% shooting, and hauling 6 rebounds.
However, like AJ Edu in the previous contest, Sotto was hampered by foul trouble as he was whistled for four personals.
Despite the hiccups, Reyes elected to field in Sotto due to his presence inside.
“We liked the matchups that we had inside so we felt even if he had two fouls, we could keep him inside because there was a guy that we felt that Kai could match up well against,” the coach said after the game.
“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,” he added.
The team led by as many as 11 in the first half, before their advantage evaporated in a blink of an eye with Angola taking the three-point lead at halftime, 36-33.
Gilas attempted to fight back in the second half, but was doomed by poor overall shooting and lack of hustle, leading to numerous offensive rebounds by the Angolans.
Behind by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter, the team managed to trim the gap to as low as 5, 73-68, with 1:12 to go, before Angola hit a dagger three a possession later.
Despite that, Sotto vows to make the most out of his playing chances as Gilas looks to claim its first World Cup win since 2014 against struggling Italy, the favorites to top Group A.
“I looked at what I did in the one minute I played and assessed my shortcomings, and focus on what I could do next game,” said Sotto. “I will bounce back every time I step inside the court.”
“I will look to repay the coaches’ trust with my play and I am proud of the team’s effort but we really need to bounce back.” — Rappler.com