Japan fails to advance at FIBA Asia Championship

by Ed Odeven

Staff Writer

Jordan controlled the tempo and kept Japan in catch-up mode en route to a 65-56 win in the teams’ Final Group E game at the FIBA Asia Championship on Wednesday in Manila.

Japan fell to 1-4 in the continental competition and failed to advance to the next round. Instead, Japan will have to settle for an attempt at finishing ninth overall in the classification stage. (Eight of the 12 teams will advance out of group play.)

The top three finishers in this tournament punch their tickets to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, formerly called the FIBA Basketball World Championship, in Spain.

Jordan, which improved to 2-3 in the tournament, shot 19-for-36 (52.8 percent) from inside the 3-point arc; Japan made 15 of 46 attempts.

Japan trailed 15-13 after the opening quarter, 30-24 at halftime and 37-24 early in the third quarter. That deficit grew to 43-25 before Japan mounted a comeback.

Coach Evangelos Alexandris’ Jordan squad took a 45-35 advantage into the fourth quarter.

Speaking to reporters after the game, Japan coach Kimikazu Suzuki said Japan’s defense has been inadequate in the tournament.

“We had changes in some of the members and we missed some of the defenders. We missed some of our defenders. We also had to focus on offense but our offense starts from the defense,” Suzuki was quoted as saying, according to spin.ph, a Philippines website.

Naoto Tsujui was Japan’s lone double-digit scorer (14 points), and he needed 12 shots, including 4-for-10 from 3-point range, to reach that total. Takahiro Kurihara finished with eight points and Kosuke Takeuchi (2-for-8 shooting) and Sean Hinkley (3-for-7) both had seven.

Former UCLA standout and longtime JBL star J.R. Sakuragi (formerly known as J.R. Henderson before he became a naturalized Japanese) shot 1-for-10 on the afternoon in a 5-point outing. He hauled in a team-high 10 rebounds; no one else on the team had more than five boards.

Japan’s rebounding woes — a consistent problem throughout the tournament — was again a major obstacle it could not overcome. Jordan controlled the boards, grabbing 48 rebounds to Japan’s 31.

Jimmy Baxter paced Jordan with 16 points along with six rebounds and three steals. Mohammed Shaher Hussain had 15 points and Ahmed Alhamarsheh scored 10.

Japan’s other FIBA Asia losses came against Taiwan (79-76), the Philippines (90-71) and Qatar (75-74). Its lone win was a 76-59 decision over Hong Kong.

By failing to earn a spot to the FIBA World Basketball Cup, Japan will likely extend its long stretch of futility in Olympic basketball. The national team hasn’t qualified for the Olympics since 1976.

The FIBA World Basketball Cup is a key component of qualifying for the 2016 Summer Olympics tournament, which will be held in Rio de Janeiro.