• Kyodo

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With one shot at gaining a Rio 2016 berth remaining, Japan’s men’s basketball team got its campaign off to the worst possible start, dropping its opening game of the Olympic qualification tournament against Latvia 88-48 in Belgrade on Monday.

Shooting a woeful 28.6 percent from the field, including 3-for-20 from 3-point range, Japan was blown off the court as Kenji Hasegawa’s men were outscored in each quarter.

“We couldn’t score, and it’s (the) biggest reason we lost,” Hasegawa said. “They bullied us and we couldn’t play to our strengths. We need to be quicker and play basketball the way we’re capable of playing.”

Latvia dominated Japan in every statistical category, claiming a 48-29 rebounding advantage, blocking nine shots to Japan’s one and shooting 51.6 percent from the floor — nearly double Japan’s shooting percentage.

In his return to the national team, Kosuke Takeuchi led the way with 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting with four rebounds. Backup point guard Naoto Tsuji had 11 points in 19 minutes.

Japan’s second and final pool game on Wednesday against the Czech Republic is now must-win contest if the team hopes to progress to the semifinal stage. The Czechs take on Latvia on Tuesday.

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