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Women's Basketball: Thailand down India 58-67

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The Indian U-18 women's basketball team went down 58-67 to hosts Thailand in their opening match at the 23rd FIBA Asia U-18 Championship on Sunday. Rattiyakorn Udomsuk top scored for Thailand with 14 points and 11 rebounds while Kanokwan Prajuapsook had 11 points and 15 rebounds to her name.

For India, Bhandavya HM Gowda was the top scorer with 17 points. Priyanka Prabhakara produced 15 points and 16 rebounds while Nishanti Masilamani also scored 15 points. 

India will next face defending champions China on Monday.

The last time India and Thailand faced off was in the previous edition in 2014. Thailand had prevailed 68-62 on that occasion.

Sunday's match started on an even keel, with both teams tied at 6-6 early on. But the tables began to turn from there as Thailand outscored India 13-7 to end the first quarter with a 19-13 lead.

In the second period, the Thai upsurge continued, with the hosts counter-attacking with ease.

Thailand's man to man defence caused India a lot of trouble, as their half court offence was reduced to pick and rolls at the top of the hosts' penalty area, ending with point guard Nishanti repeatedly spotting up from outside.

Nishanti though, was unable to connect frequently enough. Thailand also controlled the outcourt, outrebounding India for multiple second chance buckets.

The lopsided second period ended with Thailand outscoring India 26-7 to go into halftime with a seemingly unassailable 45-20 lead.

Despite the adverse scoreline, India coach Shiba Maggon remained vocal and upbeat from the sidelines, knowing it was only a matter of time before her star players found their mojo.

Led by captain Bhandavya, shooting guard Priyanka and Nishanti, the Indians launched an inspired comeback in the third quarter. All three scored in double digits.

The errors of the first twenty minutes had vanished, as India outscored Thailand 13-7 and 25-15 in the second half.

Defensively, the insertion of centre Nimmi George strengthened India's interior presence. In under 23 minutes of action, George had 11 rebounds (including five on the offensive end), as well as accounting for all three of India's blocks.

The turning point came at the start of the fourth quarter. After trailing by as many as 25 points at one stage, Bhandavya's back to back three pointers brought India within seven points of the hosts.

But Thailand did well to hold their nerves in front of a raucous home crowd to close out the win.