Late Japan rally falls short against S. Korea

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Although Japan head coach Kimikazu Suzuki tried to rely his veterans’ experience and composure, it was his youngsters that took center-stage late in the game.

Japan gave up a 20-point lead, but rallied to shrink the deficit around Ryota Sakurai in the final quarter, but their emotional effort came up short as Japan lost to South Korea 93-83 in a second-round action of the FIBA Asia Championship 2007 at Asty Tokushima on Wednesday.

South Korean guard Yang Dong Geun, who scored a game-high 25 points, stopped Japan’s surge in the fourth. Former NBA center Ha Seung Jin had 12 points, all of which came in the first half.

It was Japan’s second straight loss in the second round. Although, there is still a slight chance Japan could advance to the final knock-out round, depending on the outcome of tonight’s game against Jordan.

“It was all my responsibility that we lost,” Suzuki said. “But we still have a chance a bit, so (we will) do our best tomorrow. We are not going to give up until it ends.”

Trailing at the half Suzuki changed his scheme and played his younger players in the second half. Sakurai showed courageous attack and had six points early in the third quarter. But Japan ran out of gas late which allowed South Korea to pad it’s lead.

Earlier the day, Jordan defeated Kazakhstan 82-73.