Basketball

Japan routs Czech Republic to win three-game exhibition series

by Kaz Nagatsuka

Staff Writer

Sharp-shooter Keijuro Matsui nailed four 3-point shots and scored 18 points in the second quarter alone to boost the Japan men’s team to a 75-61 victory over the Czech Republic on Sunday at Yoyogi National Gymnasium Annex.

Team Japan wrapped up the three-game exhibition series against the Europeans with a 2-1 record, winning the last two games.

“We entered the game trying to continue our defensive hard work from yesterday,” Japan coach Kenji Hasegawa said after the game. “We wanted to build self-confidence by continuing to do that, and I think we were able to achieve that.”

Japan’s star guard Yuta Tabuse said: “We showed some positive things and had things we still need to improve on a lot. I think it was good for us to find out what they are through these three games.”

As in the previous two contests, Japan capitalized on its tenacious defensive effort and built a 46-30 halftime lead.

Power forward Joji Takeuchi chipped in for Japan with 16 points.

For the Czech Republic, Klecka Radim racked up a game-high 21 points.

Japan, which is currently 47th in the FIBA rankings (eighth in Asia), will resume its training camp on Aug. 24 and enter the William Jones Cup in Taiwan later this month.

The squad will compete in the FIBA Asia Championship, in which the winning team will earn a spot at next summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, late next month in China.

Meanwhile, the Japanese women’s team tamed Taiwan for the third straight game with a 74-33 win earlier in the day at the same venue.

Sanae Motokawa led the team with 11 points and four steals.

“Through these games, we were able to show how we have grown, especially in shooting better from outside,” said head coach Tomohide Utsumi.

The women’s team will play in the FIBA Asia Women’s Championship in Wuhan, China, later this month as the reigning champion.

Seattle Storm forward Ramu Tokashiki is scheduled to leave the WNBA club to join the national team for the Asian Championship next week.

When asked if he was worried that his team would have to enter the Asia Championship with little time to practice with Tokashiki, Utsumi shook his head.

“We’re going to demand that she plays the way we play as the national team,” Utsumi said. “But she’s got a high basketball IQ and we think she’ll adjust quickly.”

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