Japan men, women complete hoop sweeps over Philippines, Mozambique

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Big man Kosuke Takeuchi had 23 points and 11 rebounds to guide the Japan men’s national basketball team to an 88-61 victory over the Philippines at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Sunday.

Hayabusa Japan completed a three-game sweep in the exhibition series, in which the first two games were held in Sendai.

“We experienced different things in the first two games,” Japan head coach Kimikazu Suzuki said. “But we wanted to play our brand of ball, which is to play stingy defense and run the ball. I think we performed well today.”

Japan’s D held the Philippines, who brought a secondary squad on this trip, to a shooting percentage of 37.5 percent from inside the 3-point line, while the home side hit 58.0 percent in the same area.

“We entered our training camps in May, and we were able to play the kind of defense we wanted for the first time today,” said Japan captain Ryota Sakurai, who was the team’s second-leading scorer with 12 points.

Chris Blake and Reynel Frances Hugnatan led the Philippines squad with 16 points and 15 rebounds, respectively.

Japan will play in the William Jones Cup in Taipei from July 6-14 and then make a trip to Manila for the FIBA Asia Championships. The top three finishers in the continental tournament will punch their tickets for next year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Jones Cup to play against some good teams and get a feel for FIBA Asia (competition),” former Columbia University player Keijuro “KJ” Matsui said.

Earlier in the day, the Japan women’s national squad also ended a three-game exhibition series in a sweep with a 78-61 win over Mozambique at the same arena.

Japan simply outplayed its opponent from early on and widened the lead capitalizing on Mozambique’s miscues. The Africans committed 22 turnovers while Japan had 12.

Guard Michiko Miyamoto had 17 points, 15 of which were scored in the first half, to lead Japan in scoring, while 192-cm forward Ramu Tokashiki followed with 16.

Mozambique outrebounded Japan 42-31 but couldn’t take advantage due to its poor shooting.

Mozambique’s Leia Dongue had the game-high with 22 points and 15 rebounds.

“As we were playing our third game against the same opponent, both teams were able to adjust to each other,” said Japan guard and former WNBA player Yuko Oga, who recently revealed her intention to play abroad next season. “In the second game, we allowed them to get off to a good start, but we improved on that today.”

The Japanese women will play in the East Asia Games in Tianjin, China, in mid-October and FIBA Asia Championship in Bangkok from Oct. 27-Nov. 3. As with the men, the top three teams at FIBA Asia will earn berths for next fall’s FIBA World Cup in Turkey.

Staff writer Ed Odeven contributed to this report.