Turkish naturalized playmaker Ali Muhammed just wouldn’t allow his shooting woes to sink Turkey’s Olympic dreams.
So on Thursday night, the pint-sized guard took over in the last period, firing 15 of his game-high 23 points to lift Turkey to the FIBA OQT semifinals behind its pulsating 68-62 win over Senegal at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Coming off an anemic 1-point outing in Turkey’s 77-69 loss to Canada on opening day, Muhammed summoned the strength he needed against Senegal’s pesky defense, peppering his defender with an assortment of shots inside and outside.
“Of course, I’m happy that we won. I just needed to get some confidence and get some rhythm so I just kept playing,” said Muhammed, whose American name is Bobby Dixon.
The cat-quick Muhammed shot just 6-of-21 from the field overall, but he was aggressively attacking Senegal’s defense nonetheless. He went on to finish with a perfect 8-of-8 from the foul line.
The former Troy University standout said the one-day break gave him the time to do some extra shooting and try to get back his rhythm.
Turkey, ranked 8th in the world, will face either France, ranked 5th in the world or New Zealand in the knockout semifinals on Saturday.
The 2-time Turkish League champion said it wouldn’t matter who his team will face in the semifinals stage, as long as they get the win and advance to the championships slated on Sunday.
“I mean we’re just gonna look at who we play and go and try to win. It just didn’t matter who we play,” he said. – By Richard Dy
Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava