SAITAMA – Aggressive play doesn’t necessarily show up in the statistics.
Many times, a team that attempts more free throws is the aggressor. Other times, the numbers don’t reveal this key aspect of a team’s performance.
On Sunday, however, this much was evident: From start to finish, the Saitama Broncos were the more aggressive team. That physical toughness and mental mind-set produced a 90-76 win for first-year coach Dean Murray’s club over the expansion Yokohama B-Corsairs at Saitama Municipal Gymnasium.
Case in point: Rookie forward John Flowers, a West Virginia product, had four blocked shots in the first half. He finished with a game-high five along with 25 points and eight rebounds. Shooting guard Yuki Kitamuki played a fast-paced game, using his energy to maximum efficiency, scoring 18 points, including four 3-pointers, dishing out six assists and collecting a team-high three steals.
After the game, Murray commended his players’ effort despite coming into the series on long layoff since their last exhibition game on Sept. 19. He said the first game was a chance for the team to get its rhythm back.
“After yesterday’s game,” the veteran coach said, “I just had a better feel for our players. . . . In the second quarter today (when Saitama outscored Yokohama 19-10), I was able to substitute a little bit better. Today’s game for me as a coach, I felt like I was able to have a normal rotation.”
The win gave the Broncos a sense of accomplishment heading into their upcoming series against the host Shinshu Brave Warriors next weekend.
“We want to win every game,” Murray told reporters, “and everybody was disappointed yesterday, but looking back on it myself, I sat back and watched video last night and this morning, it still was our first game. . . . and always when you watch film, nothing is as good as you think it is during the game but at the same time, nothing is ever as bad as you think it is.
“So I knew our guys would play better today. And I’m just glad; if we had to have a bad game, to stink it up, yesterday was the day to do it — just get that out of our system. . . .
“We just needed to start playing. I think we’re going to get better going forward.”
Saitama floor leader Kenny Satterfield’s smart play at the point and contributed to the Broncos’ high-scoring effort. He finished with nine assists. John “Helicopter” Humphrey had his second strong game as Saitama’s sixth man, scoring 15 points and hauling in seven rebounds after a 17-point outing in the Broncos’ 81-71 season-opening loss on Saturday night.
The Broncos were 19-for-25 at the free-throw line; the B-Corsairs (2-2) were 8-for-11. (The numbers were almost identical in the series opener, though reversed, as Yokohama was 17-for-24 a day earlier.)
“I thought we knew Saitama was going to come out today with good aggression, looking for their first win of the season,” B-Corsairs coach Reggie Geary said, pointing especially to the first half as a tone-setter for the hosts.
He added: “We were settling for too many quick shots or outside shots, which unfortunately put us in a hole that was too big in the second half to work ourselves out of.”
Saitama center Gabriel Hughes had eight points and 10 rebounds and four teammates had six points apiece (Satterfield, Daiki Terashita, Masahide Haraguchi and Yasuaki Arai).
Marcus Simmons was Yokohama’s high scorer (21 points). He also shared the team lead in steals (four) with Masayuki Kabaya, who scored 14 points with eight assists and five rebounds. Justin Burrell added 12 points and Kenji Yamada and Pape Mour Faye scored nine apiece.
Yokohama trailed 36-25 at halftime and fell behind by 15 points after a Kitamuki layup early in the third quarter.
But the B-Corsairs mounted a comeback, using a 14-5 run capped by a Simmons basket off a nice dish from Kabaya to close the gap to 56-50 late in the third.
Yokohama never led in the second half.
The Broncos’ 10-4 fourth-quarter spurt increased the margin to 73-59 as the B-Corsairs called a timeout with 6:28 left in the game.
Saitama’s lead fell to six with just over 2:30 remaining, but the Broncos ended the game with strong play, including Flowers’ thunderous jam in the closing seconds.
Geary said this defeat can be an important lesson for his club.
“A lack of composure as a young team, it’s something that we are going to continue to work on,” Geary said.
Jets 82, Phoenix 73
In Hamamatsu, Chiba improved to 2-0, earning a series sweep in its first weekend in the league.
Two-time defending champion Hamamatsu Higashimikawa fell to 1-3 under first-year coach Ryuji Kawai.
Maurice Hargrow paced Chiba with 33 points. Jamel Staten added 22 points, 12 boards, five assists and three steals, while Takaki Ishida scored 12 points.
Trailing by eights at halftime, the Jets seized control of the game in the third quarter, outscoring Hamamatsu 30-9 in the period.
The Jets’ third-quarter performance was “near the top of one the best quarters I have been a part of,” Chiba coach Eric Gardow said after the game.
It was “a picture perfect weekend for the Chiba Jets,” Gardow added. “To win two on the road . . . I’m a little short on words to say what I/we the Chiba Jets family is/are feeling right now.”
“This was just the first weekend and it is a long season but we’ll enjoy it for today and focus on (our next opponent) Yokohama Monday. . . . I am pleased with the effort from all of them as we establish our identity.”
Wayne Arnold led the Phoenix with a 16-point effort.
HeatDevils 82, Happinets 50
In Akita, Wendell White’s 28-point, 14-rebound, four-assist, three-steal performance led Oita past the hosts as coach Yukinori Suzuki’s team earned a series split.
Matt Lottich chipped in with 14 points for the HeatDevils.
Yuki Kikuchi was Akita’s top scorer with 14 points and Stanley Ocitti had 13 points and 13 rebounds.
Northern Happinets guard Michael Gardener, who averaged 22.0 points in three bj-league seasons (2007-10), had a rough shooting game, finishing with seven points and 1-for-10 on 3-point shots. Teammate Kenny Taylor also scored seven points and missed 10 of his 11 3s.
Albirex BB 85, Grouses 75
In Niigata, Dwight Gordon scored 18 points to lead a balanced attack as the hosts bounced back from a series-opening loss.
Nile Murry added 17 points and Yuichi Ikeda had 14 for Niigata.
Toyama’s Masashi Joho had a game-high 21 points.
Evessa 80, Five Arrows 60
In Osaka, Lynn Washington and Cohey Aoki had 16 points apiece and the Evessa completed a two-game sweep over Takamatsu.
Washington, a day after becoming the first player in league history to reach 5,000 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and dished out six assists in Osaka’s well-rounded blowout victory. Newcomer Lavell Payne scored 12 points.
The Five Arrows shot a dreadful 19-for-82 from the field. Nyika Williams paced the out-of-towners with 19 points, while Paul Butorac had 16 points and 16 rebounds.
Lakestars 78, Hannaryz 54
In Yasu, Shiga Prefecture, Ray Nixon and Dionisio Gomez each scored 19 points and the Lakestars won their first game under new coach Alan Westover.
Josh Peppers had a 15-point performance and Yu Okada poured in 10 points for Shiga.
Forward Rick Rickert was Kyoto’s lone double-digit scorer (13 points and 11 boards).
Golden Kings 92, Rizing 83
In Fukuoka, six Golden Kings scored in double figures as Ryukyu coach Dai Oketani’s club improved to 2-0 on the season.
Guard Narito Namizato, who lit up the scoreboard for 24 points in his bj-league debut on Saturday, had a team-best 19 points and five assists for Ryukyu. Naoto Kosuge scored 16 points and Reggie Okosa (15 points, 14 rebounds) and Jeff Newton (14 points, 10 boards) both had double-doubles.
Swingman Kevin Palmer and Jun Nakanishi led Fukuoka with 16 points apiece.
Susanoo Magic 83, Shining Suns 78
In Miyazaki, Shimane guard Edward Yamamoto may be on the verge of joining the league’s elite class of point guards, as evidenced by his second straight game with 10 or more assists in a sweep over the hosts.
Yamamoto registered 21 assists in the series, including 10 on Sunday. Forward Reggie Golson had 21 points and 12 boards for the Magic, Michael Parker scored 15 and Tatsuhiro Yokoo contributed 13.
For the Shining Suns, Dexter Lyons scored 23 points and Taishiro Shimizu had 16.