To have expected Sri Lanka, ranked 73rd in the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rankings, to have matched an experienced Indian side, ranked 50th, would perhaps have been unfair.But under their new coach Kenny Natt, India blew their opponents away with a mindboggling 99-42 victory in the lone Pool a match of the Middle Asia qualifying tournament for a spot in the FIBA Asia Championship, at the Thyagaraj Stadium, New Delhi, on Wednesday.India thus entered the semifinals, where their opponents will be the loser of the Pool B match between Nepal and Bangladesh on Thursday morning. Both these teams beat Bhutan in their games on Wednesday, and the winner of the Nepal-Bangladesh match will meet Sri Lanka in the other semifinal.Both last-four games take place on Thursday evening.Former NBA coach Natt’s strategy of developing the Indian team’s defensive capabilities paid rich dividends, as the tight defence forced 14 turnovers throughout the game from the Lankans. These turnovers fuelled India’s traditional strength of fast-break baskets and three-pointers, handing them a 32-5 lead at the end of the 10-minute first period.The deployment of strengthand-conditioning coach Zak Penwell seems to have paid off well too as the Indians intimidated their opponents with sheer size and muscle power.At the beginning of the second period, India raced to a 45-7 lead, effectively sealing the game. However, it was good to see that the intensity didn’t drop much despite the score, as they closed the half at 60-20, with up-coming sevenfooter Satnam Singh getting his international career underway with a couple of good moves under the basket.advertisementWith the game virtually in the bag, Natt was free to experiment with the line- up, and he made sure each of his 12 players got at least 10 minutes of action each.The team, while keeping up the pressure on the Lankans with solid man-to-man defence, also experimented with different plays on offence, with captain Vishesh Bhriguvanshi scoring repeatedly.He finished with a team-high 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including two three-pointers that brought the crowd alive. Prakash Mishra also chipped in with 16 points and the scoring was shared around well, with only one player failing to get off the mark.In fact, the Indian team made 61 per cent of its attempted field goals, grabbed 37 rebounds to Sri Lanka’s 18 and registered 25 assists.Natt was delighted with his first look at the team in a competitive environment. “I’m glad we won and I’m impressed with the guys’ focus on everything I asked them to do. We maintained our defensive intensity and didn’t worry about the offence. I believe when you play good defence, you get more offensive opportunities, and that was our primary focus,” Natt told Mail Today after the game.Looking ahead, Natt said he was expecting much more out of the team. “I want them to tighten the screws better because we are going to play against great talent in the future. We dropped off a bit at the end and I want to avoid that,” he said.Beat Sri Lanka 99-42 to enter semi-finals of the Middle Asia qualifying tournament for the FIBA Asia Championship in September.