JAKARTA -- The unified Korean basketball team cruised into the quarterfinals of the 18th Asian Games with an 85-57 win over Kazakhstan on Tuesday.
North Korean center Ro Suk-yong led the balanced attack with a game-high 19 points at GBK Basketball Hall in Jakarta, as Korea clinched second place in Group X with a 3-1 record.
Even if Chinese Taipei loses to Indonesia later Tuesday and drops to 3-1, it will still finish atop Group X because it holds the tiebreak edge over Korea thanks to an 87-85 win in their meeting last Friday.
There are two groups of five in the competition. Group X has Korea, Chinese Taipei, Kazakhstan, India and Indonesia. Group Y featured China, Japan, Mongolia, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The top four teams from each group will advance to the quarterfinals, which will take place on Sunday. As the Group X runner-up, Korea will face the third seed from Group Y.
South Korea is the defending champion, but a gold medal here won't count toward South Korea's total, and will instead be awarded to the single entity named Korea.
Ro entered the game as the third leading scorer in the competition with 19.3 points per game, and she scored Korea's first seven points against Kazakhstan. It was 13-2 Korea barely five minutes into the game, thanks to Korea's quick offense and airtight defense.
Park Ji-hyun, the youngest Korean player at 18, got into the starting lineup for the first time and responded with five points and three steals in the opening quarter alone.
Head coach Lee Moon-kyu went to a new five-player unit in the second quarter, which included the usual starters Kim Han-byul and Lim Yung-hui. They picked up where the starters left off, and Korea closed out the first half up 47-29.
The starters were back on the floor to start the third quarter.
There were some sloppy plays for both teams in the early going, but Lim, the team captain, entered the game to settle things down and helped Korea strengthen its grip on the game.
Korea continued to push the ball even with a 69-41 lead heading into the fourth quarter. And for the second straight game, every one of the 11 players on the roster saw action and scored.
Korea had 22 steals, led by Lim's six, and held Kazakhstan to 38 percent shooting from the field.
Korea should receive low-post reinforcement in the form of Park Ji-su, a 196-centimeter center for the Las Vegas Aces in the Women's National Basketball Association. Her first WNBA regular season just ended, and Park is expected to join the national team in time for the quarterfinals. (Yonhap)