Despite getting a 29-point performance from Makoto Hiejima, Japan was unable to beat South Korea in its FIBA Asia Challenge tournament Group D opener, losing 80-73 in Tehran on Friday.
With a number of new faces wearing the Japanese colors in the 12-team tournament, including 193-cm U.S.-born power forward Ira Brown, orchestrating a consistent performance was always going to be a challenge for coach Kenji Hasegawa.
Two scoring droughts, one midway through the second quarter and the other to open the fourth, proved too much for Japan to overcome, South Korea held on to win by seven points.
Seahorses Mikawa guard Hiejima needed just 22 attempts to get his 29 points and he shot well from behind the arc, finishing 4-for-6 while adding six assists to just three turnovers.
Making his Japan debut, the 34-year-old Brown had a 14-point, 14-rebound double-double, blocked two shots and got two steals.
South Korea was led by Kim Sun-hyung who scored 22 points and finished plus-17 in his 28-minute shift, while fellow starters Lee Jung-hyun and Lee Seoung-hyun scored 16 points each.
Japan next meets Thailand on Saturday, needing a win to ensure it can progress, with the top two squads from each three-team group winning a place in the second round.