Balanced scoring carried Japan to a 102-81 victory over the Philippines in the FIBA Asia Cup on Tuesday night, July 19 in Jakarta.
In the qualifying match to determine the final team to earn a spot in the 16-nation tournament’s quarterfinals in the Indonesia capital, Japan had five double-digit scorers through three quarters and held a 14-point advantage entering the final stanza.
In the quarterfinals, Iran faces Jordan and Lebanon meets China on Wednesday, July 20. On Thursday, Australia plays Japan (tipoff at 7:30 PM JST) and South Korea takes on New Zealand.
The semifinals are set for Saturday after a rest day on Friday, followed by the third-place match and final on Sunday.
Veteran point guard Yuki Togashi paced Japan with 18 points, including 5-for-7 from 3-point range, and dished out six assists. Luke Evans, a naturalized Japanese citizen, contributed 17 points and seven rebounds.
Yudai Nishida and Yuta Watanabe both scored 15 points. Watanabe also grabbed a team-high nine rebounds. Yutaro Suda poured in 14 points.
Throughout the third quarter, Japan maintained a double-digit lead.
Hovasse’s squad led by 19 on two occasions in the period, 53-34 after a Nishida 3-pointer at the 9:05 mark and 58-39 after a Hirotaka Yoshii alley-oop with 7:25 remaining.
Watanabe sustained an ankle injury and left the game with Japan ahead 58-42 at the 7:00 mark.
Japan led 77-63 entering the fourth quarter.
Togashi, a B.League superstar and a longtime Chiba Jets franchise cornerstone, canned a 3-pointer with 5:37 to play to put Japan in front 92-69.
The Akatsuki Five extended their sizable lead to 97-71 on a Tenketsu Harimoto 3 with 4:10 left. A Kai Toews steal triggered the scoring chance at the other end.
As a team, Japan shot 60.6% (20 of 33) from 2-point range, made 13 of 35 3s and 23 of 25 foul shots.
Japan made 10 steals, led by Yuki Kawamura’s three, and pressured the Philippines into 17 turnovers.
Perspectives from Both Coaches
Philippines coach Vincent Reyes said Japan’s defense and first-quarter performance were keys to victory.
“Credit to them for the game they played,” Reyes said of Japan. “They forced us into 17 turnovers. That’s the ball game. Basically, the big deficit in the first quarter was our big problem.”
Reyes said his team gained important experience competing at the FIBA Asia Cup.
“We brought a very young team here and the experience is just going to make them better to be exposed to the kind of intensity and level of play in the Asia Cup,” Reyes commented. “There is not one player on our team of our 12 players who has ever been at the FIBA Asia Cup.”
Japan coach Tom Hovasse said, “I think that was a really important game for us. We needed a test like that. The Philippines are a good team. They pushed us and they didn’t give up.”
He called it a “good win for us, [and] I think we took a step forward for us as a team.”
Hovasse said that Watanabe will undergo tests on Wednesday to determine the severity of the ankle injury. The coach said Watanabe may be forced to miss the team’s next game against Australia.
Bobby Ray Parks led the Philippines with 16 points. Kiefer Ravena and Carl Vincent Tamayo had 15 and 10 points, respectively. The Philippines finished 8-for-12 at the free-throw line.
In a bounce-back win after losing 88-76 to Iran in their final Group C game on Sunday, July 17, the Akatsuki Five dominated for much of the first quarter on offense.
Strong Start for Japan
With the score knotted at 5-5 in the early going, Japan used a 14-2 run to seize control of the game.
Suda, who scored 33 points in a runaway victory over Syria on July 15 in the tourney’s group phase, then sank a 3-pointer, courtesy of an Evans assist, to give Japan a 19-7 lead with 5:15 to play in the quarter.
A Ravena driving layup pulled the Philippines within 25-14 with 1:37 left in the period.
Japan answered with a 7-2 run to close the quarter.
In the second quarter, a Parks floater cut the lead to 39-29 at the 4:00 mark.
Suda then knocked down a 3-pointer to make it 42-29.
Evans made two free throws with 1:46 left in the half to give Japan its biggest lead up to that point at 46-30.
Japan led 50-34 at halftime.
The Akatsuki Five made 12 of 12 free-throw attempts in the opening half. They were 6-for-20 on 3-point shots and made 16 of 39 overall shots.
Watanabe led Japan with 12 points and nine rebounds in the first half. Suda added 11 points. Nishida, Togashi and Evans had six points apiece.
For the Philippines, which made 14 of 36 shoots from the floor in the opening 20 minutes, Parks had a team-high eight points in the first half.