Gilas Pilipinas faced Kazakhstan at the 2018 Asian Games this summer and won easily, 96-59. They're looking for the same outcome Friday when they open the fifth window FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Kazakhstan is ranked 70th by FIBA. Kazakhstan started the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on a high note by winning three of its four assignments before losing its final two matches during the preliminaries by an average of 23 points.
Things got worse as they got pounded by Japan 85-70 and Australia 94-41.
It didn't help that Anton Ponomarev announced his retirement from international play during the opening window. Nagging injuries forced Ponomarev to concentrate on his duties for BC Astana in their professional circuit.
Kazakhstan is still without injured 6-foot-7 Anatoliy Kolesnikov and shoulder issues are keeping American naturalized point guard Jerry Jamar Johnson sidelined.
Kazakhstan still has the potent duo of Rustam Murzagaliev and Rustam Yargaliev to guide them. They lead the team in 3-point conversions, averaging a combined four 3-pointers per game in the competition.
Alexander Zhigulin is an outside shooting pivot who could draw out opposing Gilas big men. Zhigulin went 4-for-4 from 3-point range against Qatar in the second window for and finished with 19 points. It was his only double-digit performance.
Zhigulin, role-players Ruslan Aitkali, Denis Degtyarev and 21-year-old project Askar Maidekin are the tallest Kazakhstan players at 6-foot-8.
Dmitriy Gavrilov, Nikolay Bazhkin, and Maxim Marchuk provide some size and grit in the interior against a tall Gilas lineup.
Kazakhstan's key on offense will be how successful Murzagaliev and Yargaliev are in breaking down the Gilas' defense and kicking it to their big men.
Defensively, Kazakhstan will have to bring a higher degree of intensity and are likely to concentrate on Slaughter and Fajardo inside.
Coach Yeng Guaio will use the same running attack he did in the Asian Games, but this time with a deeper roster at his disposal.
Stanley Pringle will lead the Philippine offense with Matthew Wright, Marcio Lassiter, and Alex Cabagnot keeping up the pace.
Wright, Lassiter and Cabagnot did not see play in the Asian Games.
Kazakhstan coach Renatas Kurlionokas will have to decide between going small to keep pace with Gilas in a footrace, or use their size and ruggedness and hope they outrebound the Philippines.
Gilas is favored against Kazakhstan and a win would bring them one big step closer to securing a spot in China this summer.