Basketball

Australia sends Japan to first loss of FIBA Women's Asia Cup

Kyodo

Japan suffered its first defeat of the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup on Tuesday, losing a tight battle to Australia 83-74 and in the process missing a chance to finish atop Group B.

After a competitive first half in Bangalore, India, the Australians locked in to gain separation in the third period. But the world No. 4 team was forced to work to the end as a late Japan run brought it close.

As has been the case throughout the tournament, Japan’s bench outshone the starters. Against Australia, it was backup point guard Manami Fujioka who convinced coach Tom Hovasse to bench star Asami Yoshida.

The 23-year-old Fujioka had her third solid outing, finishing with 18 points on 9-for-16 from the floor while adding 10 assists.

Fellow bench player Yuki Miyazawa led Japan in scoring with 19 points while starters Yuka Osaki and Maki Takada finished with 10 apiece.

Australia rode excellent shooting to the win, particularly from outside, going 12-for-20 from 3-point range. Veteran pivot Marianna Tolo paced the five-time Olympic medalists with 17 points and eight boards and Kelsey Griffin scored 16, grabbed nine rebounds and dished out four assists.

By locking up second place in the group, Japan likely books a matchup with Taiwan in the quarterfinals. Taiwan had a one-win, two-loss record in group play, its only victory — by just one point — coming against North Korea.

If Japan reaches the semifinals it will likely face China, which has proved itself a formidable team at the Asia Cup, its most impressive win so far a 77-48 demolition of New Zealand.

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