WUHAN, Hubei province - Iran was beaten up and tired. But it least it pushed back a matchup with China a little longer.
The Iranians faced South Korea on Tuesday night in both teams' final second-round game, with the loser facing the looming prospect of playing the host country in the semifinals of the FIBA Asia Championship.
Iran earned a 79-62 win in a physical game that saw two star players leave with injuries.
Next up for South Korea is Japan, followed by that potential date with China, should the Chinese beat Lebanon on Friday. Iran, meanwhile, will face Jordan in the quarterfinals.
Iranian coach Veselin Matic said it was his reserves who won the day.
"Our bench players played much more in the preseason - they did well today, and I am pretty confident of them," he said. "In a game like this, it's not easy to switch the main players when they get hurt. We have to count on them. And our defense is good. If we have a hard time scoring, we have to make it much harder for the rivals.
"We played full-court press against every opponent and won all the matches with a big margin. It means we are good physically. If you win the game, you can fly. If you lose the game, you will be upset like the Koreans. Mentally, we are good too."
Both teams suffered casualties, as Iran's top scorer Samad Bahrami and South Korean star guard Yang Dong-geun left the game with injuries in the second half.
Iran leaned heavily on its size advantage, benefiting from 40 points in the paint to South Korea's 28.
South Korean coach Hur Jae wasn't in the mood to comment on the game, only stressing "we still have the potential gold medal chance at the tournament."
Hur, known for his tough training regimens and strict regulations, complained fiercely after some controversial calls.
Both coaches were uncertain of their injured players' availability for the quarterfinals.
"We will see (if Bahrami can play) - we will count on our Chinese doctor's magic again," Matic said.