The Olympic-bound Japan women’s national basketball team wrapped up a three-game exhibition series against Senegal with an overwhelming 84-38 victory at Yoyogi National Gymnasium No. 2 on Saturday.
The hosts swept the African country, which will also compete in the Rio de Janeiro Games next month.
Forward Maki Takada racked up a game-high 14 points, while center Yuka Mamiya had 12 points and eight rebounds to lead Japan’s dominance.
“Time flies. There’s less than a month until the Olympics,” Japan head coach Tomohide Utsumi told the 2,657 fans at the arena. “We’ve worked hard to achieve our goal to win a medal at the Olympics since April. We know it’s not an easy goal, but would like to challenge that with this wonderful group of players.”
For Senegal, guard Aya Traore and center Diarra Maimouna had eight points apiece.
Japan took the first two games 81-71 and 83-54, respectively, in the series.
As Utsumi stated, the journey to win a medal won’t come easily. Japan will have to take on some stronger opponents than Senegal, which is currently ranked No. 24 in the world, at the Olympics.
Yet so far, Utsumi’s charges seem to feel they are heading in the right direction.
“We wanted to see how much we could play on par against Senegal’s power in these three games at both ends of the floor,” Utsumi said. “We were able to practice that.”
Being shorter in height than rival countries at the Summer Games, Japan would like to capitalize on its speed to play at a faster tempo. Utsumi said that his team was able to do that against Senegal as well.
“We didn’t do it so much in the first game,” Utsumi said. “But in the second and third games, we played faster and that’s how we want to play. We are going to go into the Olympics with this style.”
Slashing guard Sanae Motokawa said that having accumulated training camps, the players now understand their roles better and play as a more cohesive unit.
“The team has been able to play more as a group and doesn’t panic as much as it had,” Motokawa said.
Mamiya insisted that the team still has issues to correct before the Olympics, but that the players have been able to make adjustments during games on their own and that’s a positive sign of the team’s development.
“On the court at the Olympics, it’s the players that compete,” Mamiya said. “So when you have problems and don’t have the momentum, you need to make adjustments on your own. I think that we practiced that in this series, too.”
Two-time defending Asian champion Japan, which is with France, Australia, Belarus, Turkey and Brazil in Group A in the 12-team competition at the Olympics, will hold training camps in Argentina and Brazil before the Rio Games kick off. The team is working to schedule a few warm-up games in South America.
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