Tenketsu Harimoto scored a team-high 22 points and Yuki Kawamura added 20 in Japan's 87-74 victory over host Bahrain in a 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup Asian second-round qualifier on Friday, November 11 in Manama.
Japan, ranked 38th in the latest FIBA world rankings, jumped out to a 24-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, and coach Tom Hovasse's team led 50-33 entering the third quarter of the Group F match.
But Bahrain kept the pressure on in the second half, mounting a comeback. Devon Dwayne Chism's layup with 8:43 to play in the fourth quarter trimmed Japan's lead to 66-61.
Yutaro Suda scored on a layup to increase the margin to seven, and teammate Kai Toews' attack-the-basket hoop made it 70-62 with 6:59 remaining.
Bahrain pulled within 73-67 on an Ahmed Alderazi 3-pointer with 5:10 left, but Akatsuki Japan persevered and finished strong.
Harimoto scored inside, courtesy of a Kawamura assist, to push the lead back to eight (75-68). Bahrain, ranked 86th in the world, didn't get closer the rest of the way.
"We started the game really well," Hovasse said. "We were really attacking them at the beginning."
The Japan coach added, "We were really hoping we could get a good start to this game and that was huge. Once number 11 (Mustafa Husein Ali Ahmad Rashed) started making shots, it really put pressure on us."
Rashed finished with a game-high 30 points.
Looking to Slow Rashed Down
Hovasse deployed a wave of defenders, seeking ways to slow Rashed down, disrupt his timing and take away good looks on offense.
"We had to put pressure on him (Rashed) and that opened up some things for some other players," Hovasse told reporters.
Bahrain's Chism notched a double-double (11 points, 15 rebounds) and Ahmed Haji finished with 14 points.
"I thought we could tire them out," added Hovasse, discussing his overall strategy. "I felt like we have a lot of depth at our guard position, so it was kind of a game of patience, where they made their run in the third and fourth quarter. But I felt like if we could just sustain it, and put in some younger players with some fresh legs ... I think that really took it to them at the end of the fourth quarter."
Strong Finish for Japan
Japan's energy paid off on the defensive end, forcing 18 turnovers. The visitors turned Bahrain's miscues into 20 points at the other end. Japan also outscored the hosts 32-18 in the paint. Both teams grabbed 33 rebounds.
"I was really proud of the young guys that came off the bench," Hovasse said. "Everybody did a good job. It was a good win for us."
Kawamura, who plays for the B.League's Yokohama B-Corsairs, came off the bench to spark Akatsuki Japan's offense. He made 8 of 11 shots from the floor and handed out four assists in 18-plus minutes.
Backup guard Toews, who suits up for the Shiga Lakes, contributed seven points and four assists in under 18 minutes of court time.
Veteran big man Luke Evans also had a productive outing for Japan, providing 13 points, nine rebounds and four assists.
Japan, which improved to 4-5 in FIBA World Cup qualifying, faces host Kazakhstan on Monday, November 14. Bahrain, which fell to 2-7, takes on China in Manama on the same day.
The 2023 FIBA World Cup will be co-hosted by Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines from August 25 to September 10.
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Author: Ed Odeven