Basketball

Angola hammers Japan in Group B action

by Ed Odeven

It’s time to jump for joy in Angola.

The Angola National Team thrashed Japan in their Group B game Sunday at the Hiroshima Prefectural Sports Center. Angola produced a methodical, convincing victory by playing brilliant basketball in the final three quarters, making amends for its lackluster start.

As a result, the Angolans produced an 87-62 victory on the second day of the FIBA World Championship. The West African nation improved to 2-0 in group play, while the host nation now looks to quickly regroup for Monday’s contest against Panama after losing its second game in as many days.

“It was an important game,” Japan coach Zeljko Pavlicevic said, carefully choosing his words after the loss, “but it’s not over.”

He said the game against Panama is a decisive contest for his squad. A win could put Japan back in contention in the six-team group which also includes European powers Spain and Germany. Four teams from Group B advance to the final 16 in Saitama.

“We’ll throw all our cards on the table and try to win against Panama,” Pavlicevic promised.

Meanwhile, in Angola, the team’s fans have an excuse to party, to declare in loud, excited voices the following proclamation: It’s semba time!

It’s what? It’s time to dance the semba, which is a traditional Angolan dance to celebrate joyous occasions like the birth of a new child, a wedding, or a good harvest.

Angola shooting guard Carlos Morais flashed a smile nearly as big as the horizon at Hiroshima’s port while discussing the happiness Angolans were having halfway around the world.

Four Angolans scored in double figures, with Carlos Almeida leading the way with 19 points. Busy center Abdel Azis Moussa had 16 to go along with 14 rebounds. Morais chipped in 13 points and Eduardo Mingas added 11. The team’s star, Miguel Lutonda, had 11.

Kosuke Takeuchi was Japan’s top scorer with 13 and Takehiko Orimo had 11. Shinsuke Kashiwagi added nine off the bench.

Angola was never threatened in the second half. It led by as many as 30 in the final moments.

“I think we killed them on the boards,” was how Angolan power forward Joaquim Gomes, who cleared 10 boards, summed up the game.

He’s right.

Angola had nearly as many offensive boards (19) as Japan had total rebounds (28). Angola finished with 50 rebounds.

This gave the squad numerous chances for a second shot and limited Japan’s time on the offensive end.

Pavlicevic’s undersized squad knows that it has a disadvantage in rebounding. “Today,” the coach said later, “rebounding would be the key.”

Even before the opening tipoff, the coach’s words proved to be true.

Japan never forced the issue on the boards on either end. Staring small forward Tomoo Amino (six rebounds) and reserve forward Joji Takeuchi (six) were the team’s leading rebounders.

Centers Satoru Furuta and Shunsuke Ito combined for one rebound, a figure that greatly factored into Japan’s rebounding problems on the glass.

“Furuta and Ito are very good fighters,” Pavlicevic said, “and they are going to show it tomorrow.”

Angola shot a scorching 12-for-24 from 3-point range.

Orimo scored the game’s first points on a 3-pointer from the left wing, setting the tone for his team’s strong start.

Japan continued its strong play by using a 16-7 spurt to pull ahead 21-12 on a Kosuke Takeuchi 3-pointer in the final minute of the first quarter.

Then Angola used a second-quarter surge to grab control.

Trailing by nine to start the second quarter, Anogla went on an 18-9 run to end the half and walked off the court with a 44-32 advantage.

Takeuchi had a team-high nine points at the break, while Orimo knocked down 3 of 5 shots and had eight.

“We started off very well,” Amino said. “But the opponent made bigger pressure and we started losing our rhythm on offense.”

Japan never regained that rhythm.

It didn’t get a chance to, not with the way Angola pushed its defenders to the perimeter and took away Japan’s strength.

On a positive note, Japan’s strong ball handling continued in its second game of the tourney. It had four first-half turnovers against Angola after turning it over just 10 times in the loss to Germany.

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