|Anton Bykov provided the endgame spark for Kazakhstan. Rick Dela Cruz|
By Ivan Saldajeno
PASAY--Alexandr Zhigulin started the job; Anton Bykov finished it.
While Zhigulin got most of the credit in Kazakhstan's 92-88 stunner over Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers at the Mall of Asia Arena on Friday night, Bykov's performance was something not to overlook.
Bykov made nine of his 20 total points in the final frame, but none was bigger than his last four points all coming in the final minute that helped the Kazakhs upend Gilas on the road to quickly make their bad beat in the Asian Games a thing of the past.
Coach Renatas Kurilionokas, during the post-match press conference, stressed the importance of his team captain, who actually came off the bench.
"Almost a double-double (nine rebounds). This is important, you see. We're very happy of him," Kurilionokas said.
The victory drew Kazakhstan closer to Gilas and Japan in the race for the third and the last outright spot to the FIBA World Cup for Group F, and Kurilionokas hopes to see more of Bykov in the coming games, including a rematch at home against Gilas in the sixth window early next year.
"Now, when you say about Bykov, I'm thinking that he has a very big potential because [Dmitriy] Gavrilov is a little bit of the type of big man who can shoot. This guy can roll, and this is our advantage," the Lithuanian mentor continued.
Bykov actually made a good roll to seal the win, getting free after Rustam Yergali forced Junemar Fajardo to commit to him.
"He's a hustler and a fighter. Every time he'll do his best, he will try," Kurilionokas concluded.
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