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17 November 2018 | in World University League, Basketball 3x3, 3x3 World University League

Former champs & wildcards still in the mix for 3x3 WUL title

With Huaqiao University undefeated on home court, two Canadian teams also look to contend for the men’s title. On the women’s side, a trio of the world’s top 3x3 players have their teams playing at a new level.

 

XIAMEN — As the university basketball courts bustled with pickup games of 3x3 and 5-a-side, the stakes notched up considerably higher on 3x3’s centre stage as the 3x3 FISU World University League — 2018 Finals tournament moved into ‘you gotta win it to stay in it’ mode.

 

After two days of preliminary pool play set up the last 16 draw, Saturday’s action whittled the 16 men’s and women’s teams down to a very elite eight for Sunday’s quarters, semis and finals action.

 

In the men’s field, several teams were cooking on the court; firing pinpoint passes in pick-and-rolls and off ball action. This led to open looks beyond the arc, oh-so-pretty finger roll finishes or, if you’re Philipp Strung from University of Göttingen (GER), thunderous double handed dunks. Sprung’s springs are not lost in translation here on China’s southeastern coast.

 

When the competition turned to the slam dunk contest, though, it was Ernestas Sederevicius of Vytautas Magnus University (LTU) jumping over locals that proved victorious.

 

Last year, McGill University (CAN) came in as the defending champions, but had to be satisfied with bronze. This year, they look like they have their sights set on being 2018 champions. The quartet from Montreal finished off all their competition so far before the buzzer could even sound and they scored 21 points off each of their four teams of opposition.

“We’re playing well, but we know our toughest games are yet to come,” Isaiah Cummins said. “We’re here to compete, and we hope to bring this championship home.”

 

Teams shouldn’t sleep on Huaqiao University as contenders, either. The Xiamen outfit might not have been a podium finisher in previous editions of the World University League, but this year they’re playing at new and higher level than ever before. And they’re on home court. The local basketball intelligence and local fans have taken notice.

 

After winning Friday’s final contest in the third-quickest time in 3x3 Basketball history, Yi Zheng, Hengyi Lin, Xi Yang and Xiang Meng were down 2-6 early to the Faculty of Technology of Alagoas (BRA). The boys responded by scoring 17 straight points en route to a 21-9 win. The victory sees Huaqiao University move into Sunday’s quarterfinals as one of the top seeded men’s teams.

 

Not even Stephon ‘Starbury' Marbury, who showed up for the tournament’s opening day, got the reception that the Huaqiao quartet got during the game — and after.

 

All week, the players have been routinely drawing a mob of selfie seekers several rows deep. Two players, Hengyi Liu and Xiang Meng, are nearing household name status after starring in the celebrity-reality television show Dunk of China with Starbury, Jeremy Lin and other Asian cultural icons coaching the rising hoops talent.

 

“It’s my first time out of Brazil. Playing here is so good — but it’s so tough, too,” said Gabriel Lopes from Faculty of Technology of Alagoas. “It’s not easy to play the Huaqiao team. You’re playing against their home fans, you know? But I’m so glad to be here. ”

 

Mon-Altius Physical Institute (MGL) kept their title hopes alive in the most dramatic way. With just six seconds left, the defending men’s champions turned a sweet bounce pass into a hard baseline drive to the basket before finishing off the play with a lay-in to win 21-20 over Istanbul Arel University.

 

Coming to Xiamen from just across the Taiwan Strait, the Chinese Culture University’s women’s team kept to their winning ways to advance to the quarters with a 20-15 victory over Lincoln University of New Zealand. Counting their undefeated 2017 title run, Chinese Culture University’s win streak is in double digits. In tomorrow’s quarterfinals, Peking University stands in the way of keeping that string of wins going. 

 

After their 21-8 victory over CETYS University, the Beijing-based players of Peking University expressed confidence in making the deepest of runs on Sunday. “We want the championship, we go for success,” Juntong Tang said. “The biggest competition is us, Peking University.”

 

Her teammates reaction? “Yes! Yes!”

 

Peking University comes into the quarterfinals with one blemish on their record, though; losing 18-16 to preliminary pool rivals Vasyl Stefanyk University (UKR).

 

The game came down to the final few possessions. It then was Viktoriia Kondus’ time as the No. 13 world ranked FIBA 3x3 player took over with a singular aggressiveness matched only by her stellar all-around play. For those familiar with the 21-year old Ukrainian standout's game, this was textbook Kondus.

 

“I just like having the ball in my hands,” Kondus said when asked about her playing style. “And helping my team win.”

Tsinghua University stayed undefeated heading into the final day by defeating Monash University 21-5. Led by Song Kevin, the seventh-highest ranked 3x3 player in the world, Tsinghua goes as their lightning quick leader goes. So far in Xiamen, Tsinghua has outscored their opposition by a combined score of 84-30. When Song gets into a sweet rhythm, she scores by the buckets.

 

But the best moment on Saturday? That just might be from the furious finish by the Takushoku University to rally back to win 15-13 over Tianjin University. 

 

“We’re so happy. So very, very happy,” Furuno Miki said after stepping off the court. “We want to win. We really, really want to win.”

 

All eyes now, on the quarterfinal action that will set the fourth and final day’s schedule in motion. Scroll down for the brackets and all schedules and results can be found here.