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Alvark Tokyo Playing Outstanding Defense Early in the B.League Season

In compiling 10 wins in their first 11 games, the Alvark Tokyo have held opponents to 61.6 points per game, including under 70 in all but three matches.

As the B.League's Alvark Tokyo have demonstrated since the 2023-24 season tipped off in early October, quality defense requires effort and synergy on the basketball court.

In their first 11 games, the Alvark's defensive effort has been defined by tenacity and consistency.

Consider: Over a dynamic stretch from October 21-29, Tokyo held opponents under 60 points in all five games, beating the Fighting Eagles Nagoya (72-58 and 83-49), the Akita Northern Happinets 67-51) and the Kyoto Hannaryz (75-55 and 89-59) in succession.

The Alvark didn't skip a beat last weekend, extending their current winning streak to seven with 88-64 and 97-72 victories over the visiting Sunrockers (2-9) on Friday and Saturday, November 3 and 4.

Tokyo (10-1), which owns the best record in the B.League, returns to action on Wednesday, November 8 against the Ibaraki Robots (1-10) at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No 2.

Alvark Tokyo
Alvark Tokyo big man Sebastian Saiz shoots over Sunrockers Shibuya shooting guard Kazuma Tsuya on November 4 in Tachikawa. (B.LEAGUE)

Seven Alvark players scored in double figures in the weekend finale at Arena Tachikawa Tachihi. Sebastian Saiz had 21 points and eight rebounds and Ryan Rossiter poured in 13. Kai Toews and Lithuanian big man Arturas Gudaitis contributed 12 points apiece, while Shuto Ando, Zack Baranski, and Leonardo Meindl finished with 10 apiece. Toews, a key offseason addition who previously played for the Shiga Lakes, handed out five assists on Saturday.

The Alvark shot 36-for-59 (61%) from the floor, including 10 of 18 from 3-point range. 

Tokyo led 51-39 entering the second half.

In what proved to be one of the key statistics from the game, second-year Lithuanian head coach Dainius Adomaitis' club outscored the Sunrockers 48-26 in the paint.

Alvark Tokyo
Alvark coach Dainius Adomaitis is in his second season at the helm. (B.LEAGUE)

Alvark Tokyo Coach Pleased with Team's Effort

"Energy is the keyword in today's game," Adomaitis told reporters, summing up his team's triumph. "And now, on the defensive side, the team is growing and improving one by one."

He added: "I think the team is getting better at adapting to bad [stretches] by taking timeouts to correct them. 

"Shibuya has many players with high-scoring ability. One key was our defense, which did not allow each player to play easily. I feel that the energy level on the defensive side of the ball was especially good."

Alvark Tokyo
Alvark point guard Kai Toews runs the offense as Sunrockers forward Jeff Gibbs defends. (B.LEAGUE)

Alvark newcomer Toews, who joined the club in the offseason, is averaging a team-best 4.6 assists per game. The 25-year-old playmaker said Tokyo's players thrived on individual tasks and also competed well as a team against Shibuya.

"Looking back on the two days, we were able to win again because each of us was able to do what we needed to do," Toews said. "I think we were able to win the game with a good performance. 

"However, we still need to work on our performance for the entire 40 minutes." 

Alvark Tokyo
The Alvark's Arturas Gudaitis (77) and Taiki Osakabe double-team the Sunrockers' Josh Hawkinson in the weekend rematch. (B.LEAGUE)

Osakabe Eager to Contribute on Defense

Starting shooting guard Taiki Osakabe, who had seven points and two steals in 20 productive minutes, said Tokyo's high standards were on display throughout the game.

"It was a game we couldn't afford to lose, but as usual, I put my heart and soul into it from the start," said Osakabe, who made his B.League debut in the 2019-20 season. "I was hoping to give the team a boost through my job as a defender, and I am glad that I was able to do that."

The Alvark have outscored opponents by 214 points in their first 11 games. No other team is close to that overall margin. 

The San-en NeoPhoenix (9-2) have 954 points in their 11 games and have yielded 851.

For Tokyo, another weekend highlight produced an individual milestone. On Saturday, Siena (New York) College alum Rossiter grabbed his 4,000th career defensive rebound in the B.League, becoming the seventh player to accomplish the feat. The 34-year-old is averaging 9.9 points and 9.6 rebounds this season.

Yokohama B-Corsairs guard Yuki Kawamura attempts a 3-pointer against the Sendai 89ers on November 5 at Xebio Arena Sendai. (B.LEAGUE)

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High-Scoring Guards Help B-Corsairs, Jets Earn Bounce-Back Wins

On Saturday, the Sendai 89ers blasted the visiting Yokohama B-Corsairs 85-54.

The B-Corsairs struggled to make shots in their blowout loss, including misfiring on 17 of 20 3-point attempts.

A day later, Yuki Kawamura fueled Yokohama's 87-84 overtime triumph in Sendai. The reigning B.League MVP scored a game-high 34 points on 13-for-26 shooting. He drained 5 of 12 3s as the B-Corsairs improved to 5-6. 

Kawamura scored 10 of Yokohama's 20 points in the fourth quarter. He added five additional points, including a go-ahead jumper with 23 seconds remaining, in OT.

The 89ers fell to 5-6.

"My teammates trusted me and entrusted me with the ball," Kawamura said of his game-winning shot, which put the B-Corsairs ahead 85-84. "I didn't give up until the end."

Kawamura commended his teammates for their effort on the play, too.

"It was a shot that everyone put their heart and soul into," said Kawamura. "I am very happy to finish with a win."

Chiba Jets guard Yuki Togashi shoots a 3-pointer against the SeaHorses Mikawa on November 5 at Funabashi Arena. (B.LEAGUE)

Elsewhere, the host Chiba Jets dropped an 88-83 decision to the visiting SeaHorses Mikawa on Saturday at Funabashi Arena.

In Sunday's rematch, veteran star Yuki Togashi, a member of Japan's 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup squad, sparked the Jets (6-5) with a game-best 37 points in a 101-90 win. Togashi knocked down 7 of 12 3s.

Kawamura is the B.League's leading scorer (24.0 points per game), while Togashi is No 2 at 22.2.

Gunma Crane Thunders forward Michael Parker (B.LEAGUE)

Around the League…

Gunma Crane Thunders forward Michael Parker had a season-high six steals in a 76-67 home win over the Nagoya Dolphins on Saturday.

Nagoya (8-3) rebounded with a 94-78 triumph the next day. Gunma dropped to 5-6.

The Nagasaki Velca (8-3 overall) are 3-0 in games after a loss this season.

Following a 98-81 win over the Robots on Saturday, the Velca, who earned promotion from B2 to B1 for the 2023-24 season, lost 92-88 in the series finale the next day.

Will Nagasaki's pattern of a victory after a loss continue this week? Coach Kenjiro Maeda's team is back in action on Wednesday, November 9 against the Diamond Dolphins in Nagoya.

The rest of the B.League first division's 24 teams are also in action in midweek games on Wednesday, November 8, followed by two-game weekend series on November 11-12.

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Author: Ed Odeven

Find Ed on JAPAN Forward's dedicated website, SportsLook. Follow his [Japan Sports Notebook] on Sundays, [Odds and Evens] during the week, and X (formerly Twitter) @ed_odeven.

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