The Tall Blacks wrapped up an arduous preparation phase for the FIBA Asia Cup with a fighting 60-53 defeat at the hands of dual tournament winners Angola in Chengdu tonight, pushing the full strength African nation all the way and threatening a repeat victory from the first tournament in Kunshan.

With the team travelling in less than 24 hours to Beirut for the Asia Cup and playing their 6th game in 7 days in China, it would have been understandable if there was a drop in intensity from the young New Zealanders, but they never gave up trying the entire night, winning the final quarter 18-14 and at times closing to within two buckets of Angola.

Head Coach Paul Henare reflected not so much on tonights game, but the past two weeks with a young team of largely untried international players as he looks to build depth in the Tall Black programme ahead of their introduction into the Asia region.

"I am really proud of the guys and the effort they have put in over the past few weeks, it has culminated in a good performance tonight, not a perfect performance, but the Angolan side has been the class of the two tournaments and no one has gotten close to them. We are the only team to have beaten them and again tonight we competed with a very good team. That is what we must take into Beirut, knowing we can compete against very good sides."

Best on the night for New Zealand was Ethan Rusbatch, his game high 16 points included 4 of 8 from deep, backed up by superb defence and four rebounds, in a performance that might yet have ANBL clubs calling for the currently out of contract guard.

New Zealand started slowly and were without a bucket midway through the opening quarter, but managed to keep Angola within reach, going to the first break 14-15 down. The offence continued to misfire though (Rusbatch aside), with a final shooting percentage of 38% from the two-point range and 24% from deep reflecting the teams struggle to stay with Angola.

With the score blowing out to an 11-point lead at three quarter time, the young New Zealanders were asked to show some character and get back in the fight. The response was immediate on the back of a Rusbatch corner three and an Ili drive to the basket, but the experienced Angolan team responded and kept the New Zealanders at arms length down the stretch.

While results have not gone the way of New Zealand, Henare is confident that the game sin China have more than served a purpose to prepare and in some ways toughen up his young charges for what they will face in Beirut, starting with Kazakhstan in three days time.

"By the time we get to Beirut we are going to have a day off in between games, it is going to feel like a holiday for these guys. That is one of the great things about this schedule, six games in seven days with a decent travel day in between, they will be as game ready and game hardened as they can be in Beirut.

"This will be another useful experience for these guys, they will be playing against high quality basketballers, I know for a fact they will walk away from this experience in China all the better for it."

New Zealand travel to Beirut tomorrow (Saturday), arriving on Sunday afternoon to then put the finishing touches on preparation ahead of their opening pool game against Kazakhstan at 1:30pm on Tuesday local time.

Tall Blacks 53

Rusbatch 16, Ili 11, Raukawa 7

Angola 60

Fei 14, Carlos Mor 11

BOX SCORE included in the Gallery for this article on the www.basketball.org.nz website

Tall Blacks Roster to the Asia Cup, Lebanon, August 8 to 23

Shea Ili, point guard, SKYCITY Breakers/Wellington Saints; Derone Raukawa, point guard, SKYCITY Breakers, Southland Sharks; Isaac Letoa, point guard, Wellington Saints; Ethan Rusbatch, guard, Canterbury Rams; Luke Aston, guard, Southland Sharks; Reuben Te Rangi, guard/small forward, Brisbane Bullets, Southland Sharks; Dyson King-Hawea, forward, Nunawading Spectres; Jordan Ngatai, guard/small forward, Wellington Saints; Tohi Smith-Milner, forward, Melbourne United; Finn Delany, forward, SKYCITY Breakers; Sam Timmins, centre, Washington University; James Hunter, forward/centre, Southland Sharks;

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand