Japan prevails over Hong Kong in FIBA Asia clash

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Led by guard Naoto Tsuji’s 17-point effort and three teammates’ double-digit scoring output, the Japan men’s national basketball team cruised past Hong Kong 76-59 in a FIBA Asia Championship Group B game on Friday in Manila.

Japan bounced back from a one-point loss to Qatar in the teams’ tournament opener on Thursday.

Kosuke Takeuchi contributed 12 points and seven rebounds and Kosuke Kanamaru and J.R. Sakuragi added 10 points apiece for Japan. Sakuragi grabbed a team-high 12 rebounds, helping Japan narrowly win the battle on the boards (41-38).

Japan finished with 20 assists on 29 field goals, with six players handing out two or more assists. Ryota Sakurai led his team with four assists.

Coach Kimikazu Suzuki’s club converted 12 of 16 free-throw attempts in the win. Hong Kong shot 5-for-9 at the line at Mall of Asia Arena.

Japan, which led 41-40 at halftime, outscored Hong Kong 23-13 in the third quarter to begin pulling away. All told, Japan had 35 second-half points to Hong Kong’s 19.

Wong Chun-wai paced Hong Kong with 23 points.

Japan scored 34 points in the paint, while Hong Kong had 16.