Japan’s opening game of the FIBA Asia Cup ended in a disappointing 16-point loss to regional heavyweights Australia in Lebanon on Tuesday.
The first game of Group D at Beirut’s Nouhad Nawfal Sports Complex was close through the first quarter, but Australia broke away in the second, building a lead that was never threatened as the Boomers closed out an 84-68 win.
Australia, playing without any of its current NBA talent and making its debut in Asia’s top competition, proved too physical, deep and skilled as it rode a balanced effort which saw all five starters score in double figures.
Center Matthew Hodgson starred with an 11-point, 12-rebound game for Australia while Cameron Gliddon and Jason Cadee finished with 13 points apiece.
In new head coach Julio Lamas’ first official game in charge, Japan was paced by Tenketsu Harimoto’s 13 points while Yuki Togashi chipped in 12, but all in the first half.
Rebounding proved Japan’s Achilles’ heel as Australia dominated the glass 47-20, including 15 on the offensive end, giving it 10 extra field goal attempts which it took advantage of by shooting 50.77 percent from the field.
Japan faces Taiwan next on Thursday. The two teams played in the FIBA East Asia Cup in Nagano in June, with Taiwan handling the hosts in the semifinal and then going on to win the title.
Taiwan will be without its United States-born star center Quincy Davis III who is out for this tournament, giving Japan a better chance at claiming second in the group behind Australia and an easier opponent in the quarterfinal qualification round.
The other Group D team, Hong Kong, takes on Japan on Saturday with only the last-placed team per group not getting a shot at a quarterfinal place.