The Alvark Tokyo jumped out to a big lead in the first quarter and held on for a 74-53 victory over the Ryukyu Golden Kings on Friday night in the B. League.
Tokyo improved to 2-0, winning for the second time in as many days in the first-ever series in the new league at Yoyogi National Gymnasium before an announced crowd of 9,461.
The Golden Kings trailed 16-4 after one quarter and 32-17 at halftime.
Shooting guard Daiki Tanaka had a team-high 19 points, including 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point arc, with four steals and three assists for the Alvark and fellow shooting guard Diante Garrett, an Iowa State alum, chipped in with 16 points, including 4-for-8 shooting on 3s, and five assists. Power forward Joji Takeuchi added 11 points and nine rebounds and Shohei Kikuchi poured in nine points, while Troy Gillenwater scored eight.
For the Golden Kings, forward Anthony McHenry had 14 points and 18 rebounds. Ryuichi Kishimoto added nine points, three assists and three steals and Shigeyuki Kinjo and Lamont Hamilton scored eight points apiece. Forward Hiromasa Omiya, who was held to two points, grabbed nine rebounds. Shuhei Kitagawa finished 2-for-15 shooting and had five points in the loss.
The other 16 B. League first-division teams are in action on Saturday and Sunday as the inaugural season gets fully underway. In addition, all 18 second-division clubs will also begin their campaign on Saturday.
In the paint: After Thursday’s season opener, Tanaka and Alvark teammate Keijuro Matsui reflected on the start of a new season and a new league. Said Tanaka: “We got this much of attention at this big game. I’m glad we won, but this is one of the 60 games we play in the season, and at the end of the day it doesn’t mean anything if we don’t win the championship in the end.”
Matsui, who played college ball at Columbia University, said, “It was certainly an unusual atmosphere with the entertainment, that many fans, the LED (court) and stuff. But it comes down to how well you can play.”
He added: “We have 59 more games to play, and for every game, there’s fans that come see our play. And we are going to have to make the fans that watch us play through TV and at the games feel that basketball is fun to watch.”
A step forward: B. League chairman Masaaki Okawa told reporters that Thursday’s game was an important step in Japan basketball’s next chapter.
“Today we saw the two leagues (the NBL and bj-league) have completely merged into one,” he told a news conference on Thursday. “Now we are going to have to develop Japanese basketball — that’s our next step.
“Each team needs to continue to put in the effort so they get attention until the playoffs — that’s our issue going forward.”
Kawabuchi’s thoughts: After the opening game, which the Alvark won 80-75 at the same venue, Japan Basketball Association president Saburo Kawabuchi took the opportunity to express his views on the spirited start to the new season.
“We didn’t have this much excitement and emotion in Japanese basketball before,” Kawabuchi said on Thursday, when more than 200 media members were gathered at Yoyogi. “We need to maintain them because Japan (men’s team) has not been guaranteed to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics yet. If we keep the status quo, FIBA is going to say no. They have got to be on top of Asia at least.”
Staff writer Kaz Nagatsuka contributed to this report.