ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA – Japan on Monday suffered its second defeat in as many Asia qualifiers for the FIBA World Cup, a 14-0 final-quarter run allowing Australia to claim a scrappy Round 1 matchup 82-58 in Adelaide.
Facing its toughest Group B opponent, Japan was able to keep the game within reach for a time, but Australia’s physicality on the boards and superior shooting gave it an ultimately clear win at home.
The FIBA world No. 9-ranked Australia, without any of its U.S.-based NBA talent, finished the game shooting over 50 percent from the floor and with a 48-21 rebounding advantage, an insurmountable combination that allowed it to stay unbeaten in its campaign to reach the 2019 World Cup in China.
“When you win you it’s easy to be optimistic or (have) confidence,” said Japan’s head coach Julio Lamas. “Right now, we have to have conviction and trust in us and trust in our system or our players to try to win next time.
“I am happy only when we win, but the satisfaction is that every player gave his best effort. We need to have the most chances (to beat) Australia, not lose the rebounds 48-21 — 27 more rebounds. They are very strong in this situation, but I think our players played smart and played in a good situation because we had just 12 turnovers, (against) one very, very, very physical team.”
As in the opening qualifier versus the Philippines, Makoto Hiejima led Japan, finishing with 17 points on 11 shots. Ira Brown again proved his worth, with 10 points and eight rebounds, but it was the latter statistic that he was fighting a lone fight — nobody else on the team managed more than two boards.
Despite that, Brown said he was far from disappointed with his teammates’ effort.
“We competed, that’s what I’m asking (for). To come in and play a top-ranked team and you compete and give it all you have, that’s all you can ask for,” he said, adding that the team’s rebounding issues were perhaps not as bad as it looked on the boxscore.
“You can always improve on rebounds, in terms of boxing out and getting the bigs out of there. But sometimes the ball is not going to bounce your way . . . Some games you have to live with it, some games you know you have to fight and compete.”
Power forward Daniel Kickert was near unstoppable for Australia, scoring 22 points while shooting a perfect 4-from-4 from behind the arc in his 20 minutes. His bruising front-court partner Matthew Hodgson finished with 10 points and nine rebounds, while Nick Kay had a workmanlike game off the bench, dominating the glass with seven of his ten boards on the offensive end.
“I like the fight of my players. Both games with the Philippines and today, but it was not enough to win. We need to try to keep working to improve and upgrade our level,” concluded Lamas.
“Improving and changing one situation and one dynamic is not easy work and not one day’s work . . . It is very important that we think (about) these situations because I practice with this team and with these players and they give their best effort and discipline every day. We need to improve in different situations.”
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