Japan edges Qatar in FIBA Asia Cup opener


Staff Writer

Power forward Kosuke Takeuchi and guard Kosuke Kanamaru scored 14 points apiece as host Japan defeated Qatar 73-69 in Group B action in the fourth FIBA Asia Cup on Friday night.

“I think our young players really contributed to the team,” Japan coach Kimikazu Suzuki said after the game at the brand-new Ota City General Gymnasium. “We could’ve won more easily had we done a better job in rebounding and not had turnovers. But overall, we played good.”

Qatar cut the deficit, which was as many as 12 points in the third quarter, down to three with less than two minutes left in the final period. But Japan survived Qatar’s rally, with Takeuchi sinking a pair of clutch free throws in the final 10 seconds.

Veteran center J.R. Sakuragi, a naturalized Japanese citizen playing in his first game for the national team since 2007, also chipped in with 13 points and nine boards.

“It’s really disappointing to lose any time,” said former Japan national team head coach Thomas Wisman, who became the Qatar coach job two months ago. “But it was the first game of the tournament. We’ve got seven games in the tournament. We’ve got to use each game as experience to (become) a better team.”

For Qatar, forward Erfan Ali Saeed had a team-high 21 points.

Japan led 41-36 at halftime.

In other games Friday, Lebanon crushed Macau 120-51, Iran beat India 83-71 and China edged the Philippines 71-68.

The 10-team tournament was previously known as the FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup. The tournament winner will earn an automatic berth for the 27th FIBA Asia Championship.

Japan finished runnerup in the last tournament in 2010. It will face Taiwan on Saturday.