Basketball / B. League

Grouses pull away late to keep B-Corsairs winless

by Ed Odeven

Staff writer

The Yokohama B-Corsairs entered Wednesday’s game seeking their first victory of the young season.

The Toyama Grouses wanted to end a two-game slide.

Only one team was assured of achieving its objective.

The Grouses accomplished their goal, beating the hosts 88-84 at Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium in a back-and-forth contest.

A Joshua Smith inside basket put Toyama ahead 86-81 with 1:15 remaining, and first-year head coach Don Beck’s team held on down the stretch to pick up its third win in five games.

Addressing the fans afterward, new Yokohama coach Tom Wisman said, ”This doesn’t feel very well … and we apologize.”

“We are struggling,” he added, “and we will work our way out of this.”

Leo Lyons led Toyama with 24 points and grabbed 13 rebounds and Smith had 19 points and 14 boards.

Rookie forward Amanze Egekeze scored 23 points for Yokohama, which fell to 0-5. Ryo Tawatari added 18 points.

Toyama took a 26-16 lead into the second quarter. Sharpshooter Yuto Otsuka ignited the visitors in the first stanza, burying 4 of 6 3-pointers. He finished the game with 12 points, but that early spark was a big factor in Toyama establishing a solid presence on the perimeter against the Yokohama zone defense.

Wisman later acknowledged that the B-Corsairs had tried to limit the effectiveness of Lyons and Smith but fell short of its goal. He said the team needs to get better at defending inside the paint. The veteran coach cited that factor as one of the reasons his team lost the game.

Toyama outscored Yokohama 48-34 in the paint, with Lyons and Smith setting the tone inside for the Grouses.

Lyons was 8-for-11 on 2-point shots, while Smith finished 9-for-10. Floor leader Naoki Uto added 13 points and 12 assists.

With five games in the books, Wisman said his team needs to find a way to be more aggressive. Looking at the game stats, he noted that for the fifth consecutive time, his club had fewer free-throw attempts than its opponent. That, Wisman commented, indicates that the opposing team is the aggressor.

The Grouses made 14 of 21 free throws, while the B-Corsairs converted 9 of 14.

Beck said his team committed too many turnovers (14) and had lapses on defense. He said there’s room for improvement for Toyama, and he noted that Yokohama pushed the Kyoto Hannaryz on Saturday and Sunday, admitting that the game was a good challenge for his team. (Indeed, Kyoto prevailed by an 87-81 margin in that series finale.)

Toyama took a 37-34 lead into halftime.

The B-Corsairs trailed 66-63 entering the fourth quarter.

Overall, Toyama shot 56.7 percent from the floor, including 28 of 45 inside the arc. Yokohama was 33 of 61 overall (46.5 percent).

Point guard Masashi Hosoya had 10 points and Charles Garcia and Takuya Kawamura scored eight apiece for Yokohama. On a night when he was held to one point (and just one shot from the field), Edward Morris contributed seven rebounds, eight assists, four steals and three blocks.

IN THE PAINT
Before the game, the teams observed a moment of silence for longtime FIBA secretary general Patrick Baumann, who died on Sunday in Buenos Aires at age 51.

The league also paid respect to Baumann at the other eight B1 games’ venues on Wednesday evening.