The Tall Blacks have made a lacklustre start to their FIBA World Cup qualifying campaign.
In their first World Cup qualifier as a member of the Asian confederation, the Tall Blacks have fallen 86-80 to South Korea in Wellington.
Despite recent form, this was a significant upset. The Tall Blacks had lost their two meetings against South Korea at the Asia Cup, but that was with their young squad, missing eight of the 12 players who suited up tonight.
With their experienced core returning, and with a squad solely made up of professional players for the first time, the Tall Blacks were soldily favoured to deal to South Korea, but struggled to find their rhythm and never hit top gear.
Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare admitted his side got "outplayed."
"We got beat by a very good team. Well-drilled, and a team who executes all the way down the stretch."
The Tall Blacks are undoubtedly one of Asia's best sides, and will cruise to World Cup qualification. However, the real value of their Asian campaign will come in getting regular games in against quality opposition, and at home, where they can finally expose fans to the national team.
Those fans would be hoping for much improved performances than they saw tonight.
In a surprising twist, it was Korea employing the Tall Blacks' traditional style; mixing hand-offs, screens and motion sets to create a potent offensive broth.
On defence, they were employing a zone, which confused the usually smooth Tall Blacks into extended periods of ineffective isolation basketball.
"We knew they were going to play zone defence and we looked really stagnant at times against that," diagnosed Henare.
Corey Webster had no problems early against the zone, kick-starting the Tall Blacks offence, but Korea were causing them problems defensively too. Some lovely ball movement and back cuts created easy looks, and they had the fortune of cashing in on their difficult looks too.
Junbeom Jeon was hitting some absolute prayers from deep for the visitors, who shot at 10/21 from three, while Se-keun Oh was making the crowd gasp his name with some sterling work in the post.
Whenever the Tall Blacks managed to battle back, Jeon would sink another deep three with a hand in his face, and a surprisingly equalitarian minutes allocation saw the Tall Blacks spend time without their best offensive units on the court.
Corey Webster was arguably underused with just 20 minutes on court, while Mika Vukona was given 22 largely ineffective minutes.
The Webster brothers combined for 30 points, while Isaac Fotu and Shea Ili added 10 apiece, but while the Tall Blacks briefly regained the lead, Korea kept coming.
Jeon ended with 22 points, hitting six threes, the biggest being with a minute to go, putting his side up by five. Tom Abercrombie responded with a triple of his own, but Korea's precise passing – ending with a remarkable 27 assists – kept the hosts at bay.
Up two with 11 seconds to go, Junyong Choi converted a layup to make sure there would be no last-gasp comeback, and consigning the Tall Blacks to a dispiriting opening defeat.
"It's a hard one to take", said Vukona.
"It's something that's going to be in the back of our mind going into the next game - the boys are already thinking about the next game coming up against Hong Kong."
A bounce-back win will surely be in store in that early Monday morning fixture, but there is plenty of work still to be done as the Tall Blacks embark on their Asian adventure.
Tall Blacks 80 (Corey Webster 16, Tai Webster 14)
South Korea 86 (Junbeom Jeon 22, Se-keun Oh 14)